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Henry W. Sag* 

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Cornell University Library 
BS1191 .S32 1905 

Astronomy in the Old Testament, by G. Sc 


3 1924 029 281 842 

The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 









1905 & 






THE author of this book is the Director of the 
Brera Observatory in Milan, and his great reputation 
as an astronomer causes special interest to attach to 
his views on Biblical astronomy. He has been kind 
enough to revise his work throughout for the purpose 
of the English translation, and also to criticize and 
amend the translation itself. 

The translator, who has undertaken the work at the 
request of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, has 
to express his great obligations to the Rev. Dr. 
Driver, Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University 
of Oxford, and to Mr. A. E. Cowley, Sub-Librarian 
of the Bodleian Library and Fellow of Magdalen 
College. Both these gentlemen have read the transla- 
tion and made important corrections ; and, while they 
cannot be held responsible in all cases for the form 
which it has finally taken, any claims to accuracy which 
it may possess are due to their assistance. 


THIS little book was published for the first time in 
Italian in 1903, forming No. $$% of the scientific series 
in the large collection of Manuals which are being 
published in Milan by Ulrico Hoepli. A German 
translation was published at Giessen in 1904, contain- 
ing some changes and corrections. All these alterations 
have been adopted in the present version, together 
with many others which are entirely new. 

In presenting it to English readers, I feel bound to 
express my sincere gratitude to the Delegates of the 
Clarendon Press and to the translator, who have inter- 
ested themselves in its publication and have assisted 
in rendering it less imperfect. Their observations on 
some doubtful assertions, and on certain points which 
were open to dispute and not clearly expressed, have 
led me to make various improvements and to introduce 
important additions and corrections. Special thanks 
are also due to my kind and learned friend Monsignor 
Antonio Ceriani, Prefect of the Ambrosian Library at 
Milan, who rendered indispensable help in my con- 
sultation of some Syriac and Rabbinical works. 

Some readers may perhaps notice that not a word 
is said in this book about some truly sensational 
novelties which have been published recently (especi- 
ally by some learned German Assyriologists) in regard 
to the astronomical mythology of the ancient peoples 

Preface v 

of nearer Asia, and to the great influence which this 
mythology is supposed to have exercised upon the 
historical traditions of the Hebrews, upon their reli- 
gious usages, and upon the whole literature of the 
Old Testament. It cannot be denied that those 
novelties have a strict connexion with the subject of 
the present book. When we read, for example, that 
the seven children of Leah (counting Dinah among 
them) represent or are represented by the seven 
planets of astrology 1 , we are led to the important 
conclusion that, at the date when the traditions con- 
cerning the family of Jacob were being formed, the 
Hebrews had some knowledge of the seven planets. 
And when, in connexion with the story of Uriah, it 
is indicated that, in the three personages of David, 
Bathsheba, and Solomon, an allusion is contained to 
the three zodiacal signs of Leo, Virgo, and Libra 2 , 
we must infer that not only the zodiac, divided into 
twelve parts, but also the twelve corresponding figures 
or symbols were known to the first narrator of the 
story of David under a form analogous to that which 
we have borrowed from the Greeks. Now it is certain 
that these and other still more important conclusions 
could not have been passed over in silence had they 
already been brought to the degree of certainty, or at 
least of probability, which history requires. But I do 
not believe myself to be exaggerating when I say that 
these investigations are still in a state of change and 

1 Winckler, Geschichte Israels, ii. 58 and 122; Zimmera, in KAT? 
p. 625. Dinah is naturally made to correspond to the planet Venus or 

1 Winckler, in KAT? p. 223. 

vi Preface 

much uncertainty. When we consider, further, the 
freedom with which the writers of this school use 
their own imagination as instrument of research — and 
the ease with which they construct vast edifices of 
conjecture on narrow and shifting foundations — no 
one can be surprised that these ingenious and subtle 
speculations are very far from having obtained the 
unanimous agreement of the men who are capable of 
forming an independent judgement on these difficult 

So much may be said to explain why, in this little 
book, which is intended for ordinary readers, I have 
not considered it opportune to take account of in- 
vestigations which cannot be held to have brought 
certain results to knowledge. Any one who desires 
to form some idea of the principles and methods of 
this school will find a short but substantial account 
of them in Professor Winckler's book Die Weltan- 
schauung des alten Orients, recently published at 
Leipzig. So far as the Hebrew people are more 
specially concerned, fuller information is contained in 
the second volume of the same author's Geschichte 
Israels, and in Alfred Jeremias's work Das Alte 
Testament im Lichte des alten Orie7its. The general 
results for the whole of the Semitic East are to be 
found fully expounded in the volume which Winckler 
and Zimmern have published jointly, under the form 
of a third edition of Schrader's well-known work Die 
Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, 


Milan : 
June 30, 1905. 



I. Introduction i 

The people of Israel, its learned men and its 
scientific knowledge. — Nature and poetry. — 
General view of the physical world as given in 
the Book of Job. — Criticism of the sources. 

II. The Firmament, The Earth, The Abysses . 22 

General arrangement of the world. — The earth's 
disk. — Limits of the regions known to the Jews. — 
The earth's foundations. — The abyss and Sheol. 
— The firmament. — The upper and lower waters. 
— Theory of subterranean waters and of springs, 
of rain, snow, and hail : the clouds. — General 
idea of Hebrew cosmography. 

III. The Stars 39 

The sun and the moon. — Their course stopped 
by Joshua and others. — Allusions to a total 
eclipse, probably that of 831 B.C. — The heaven 
of stars. — The host of heaven. — The planets : 
Venus and Saturn. — Comets and bolides. — Fall 
of meteorites. — Astrology. 

Table of names of stars. 

IV. The Constellations 53 

Difficulty of the subject. — 'Ash (ox'Aytsh) and her 
children. — Kesil and Kesilim. — Kimah. — The 
chambers of the south. — Mezarim. — The serpent ? 
— Rahab. 

V. Mazzaroth 74 

Mazzaroth or Mazzaloth. — Various interpreta- 
tions of this name. — It cannot be the Great 
Bear. — It probably represents the two phases 
of Venus. — Comparison of a Biblical expression 
with some Babylonian monuments. — The host of 
heaven reconsidered. 

viii Table of Contents 


VI. The Day and its Division .... 90 

The evening at a certain point of twilight regarded 
as the beginning of day. — ' Between the two 
evenings.' — Divisions of the night and of the 
natural day. — The so-called sundial of Ahaz. — 
No mention of hours in the Old Testament. — The 
Aramaic shdah. 

VII. The Jewish Months 102 

Lunar months. — Determination of the new moon. 

— Order of the months, and beginning of the year 
at different epochs of Jewish history. — Phoenician 
months. — Numerical names employed from the 
time of Solomon onwards. — Adoption of the 
Babylonian months after the exile. 

VIII. The Jewish Year 114 

Different commencements of the year at different 
epochs. — Determination of the Paschal Month. 

— What the ancient Jews knew about the dura- 
tion of the year. — Use of the octaeteris. — 
Astronomical schools in the Jewish communities 
of Babylonia. 

IX. Septenary Periods 130 

The Babylonian lunar week and the free Jewish 
week. — The repose of the Sabbath. — The year 
of liberty. — The year of remission. — The Sab- 
batic Year. — Epochs of the Sabbatic Year. — 
The Jewish Jubilee. — Questions relating to its 
origin and use. 

Appendix I . . 161 

The constellation 'Iyutha in the Syriac writers. 

Appendix II 163 

Kimah, 'Ayis/ty Mazzaroth. 

Appendix III 175 

The week, and the week of weeks, among the 




The people of Israel, its learned men and its scientific knowledge.— 
Nature and poetry. — General view of the physical world as given 
in the Book of Job. — Criticism of the sources. 

i. It did not fall to the lot of the Hebrew people to have 
the glory of creating the beginnings of the sciences, or even 
to raise to a high level of perfection the exercise of the fine 
arts: both these achievements belong to the great and im- 
perishable honours of the Greeks. The Jews were not a 
nation of conquerors; they had little or no knowledge of 
profound political problems, or of the administrative science 
which has brought such distinction to the name of Rome. 
Their natural gifts, as well as the course of events, carried 
them to a different mission of no smaller importance — that of 
purifying the religious sentiment and of preparing the way 
for monotheism. Of this way they marked the first clear 
traces. In the laborious accomplishment of this great task 
Israel lived, suffered, and completely exhausted itselC Israel's 
history, legislation, and literature were essentially co-ordinated 
towards this aim ; science and art were for Israel of second- 
ary importance. No wonder, therefore, that the steps of 
the Jews' advance in the field of scientific conceptions and 
speculations were small and feeble : no wonder that in such 
respects they were easily vanquished by their neighbours on 
the Nile and the Euphrates. 

It would, however, be incorrect to suppose that the Jews 
were indifferent to the facts of nature, that they paid no 
attention to the spectacles provided by her in such marvellous 


. / v_> 

2 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

variety, or that they made no attempt to offer any kind 
of explanation of them. On the contrary, in every part of 
their literary remains their profound feeling for nature rises 
to the surface ; and it is manifest how open was their mind 
to acute observations of phenomena and to admiration for 
all that is beautiful or impressive in them. Their explanation 
of natural events (so far as it is still possible to trace it in 
the indications, fragmentary and often uncertain, which are 
scattered in chance references in the books of the Old 
Testament) seems to us, as always happens with primitive 
cosmologies, much more fantastic than rational; yet it was 
not so exclusively a work of the imagination as to degenerate 
into arbitrary or unbridled mythology, in the manner which 
we observe among the Aryans of India or the Hellenes of 
prehistoric times. It was connected exclusively with the 
worship of Yah we : to His omnipotence the Jews referred the 
existence of the world; they made its changes depend on 
His will, regarded as subject to frequent alteration ; thus the 
possibility never presented itself to their minds that the opera- 
tions of the material world occurred in accordance with laws 
invariably fixed. Hence they gained the foundation of a simple 
and clear cosmology, in perfect accord with religious ideas, 
suitable for giving complete satisfaction to men of a primitive 
type and of simple mind, who were full of imagination and 
feeling, but not much accustomed to analyse phenomena 
or their causes. 

2. Further, we ought not even to suppose that wisdom was 
not held in due honour among the children of Israel, and 
that there were not among them men eminent for superior 
knowledge and culture, who gained through the possession 
of these qualities the high esteem of their fellow countrymen. 
When the whole nation recognized David as their king, 
eleven of the twelve tribes thought it sufficient to complete 
the act of recognition by sending to Hebron the hosts of 

Introduction 3 

their warriors in arms. One tribe alone, that of Issachar, 
sent at the head of the troops 200 of their best and wisest 
citizens to take part in the deputation. The author of the 
Books of Chronicles 1 tells us : 'of the sons of Issachar came 
men that had understanding of the times, to know what 
Israel ought to do; the heads of them were 200; and all 
their brethren were at their bidding/ This ' understanding 
of the times' is referred by some interpreters to the arrange- 
ments of the calendar, rendered important among the Jews 
by the need of regulating their festivals and sacrifices : and 
this opinion seems not to be devoid of probability 3 . 

The same author speaks in another place of three families 
dwelling in the town of Jabez, renowned for having exercised 
from father to son the profession of scribe, that is to say, of 
literature 3 . Great was also the reputation of the wise men 
of Edom, a country inhabited by a people scarcely different 
from Israel, and long considered by them as brothers. The 
author of the Book of Job has put into the mouth of five 
Edomite sages his most profound reflections concerning 
the origin of evil and universal justice. The wisdom of the 
Edomites and their prudence in important decisions had 
passed into a proverb*. 

One of the greatest praises bestowed upon Solomon has 

1 1 Chron. xii. 3a. 

* The opinion of Reuss and Gesenius, who see in these learned men 
of Issachar so many astrologers, seems to me less probable ; 200 
astrologers for one of the smaller tribes seem to be excessive. It may 
also be donbted whether real astrologers existed in Israel at this epoch. 
The Septuagint takes the matter differently, translating — ytv&<iK0VT£s 
ovvtaiv els tovs rcatpovs. SeeReuss's Commentary; Gesenius's TAes.-p. 994. 

3 1 Chron. ii. 55. I adhere to the sense in which this passage has 
been understood by the Septuagint and in the Vulgate, though the majority 
of modern translators dissent from it. As for the ' City of Books ' 
(Qiryatk-sephcr, Judg. i. 11 sqq.), that would rather be evidence for the 
culture of the Canaanites than of the Israelites. 

4 Obad. 8; Jer. xlix. 7 ; Baruch iii. 22. 

B 2 

4 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

reference to his vast scientific knowledge. We read in the 
first Book of Kings 1 : ' The wisdom of Solomon was greater 
than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and of all the 
Egyptians. He was wiser than all men ; wiser than Ethan 
the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Calcol, and Darda, the sons 
of Mahol ; and his fame was in all the nations round about. 
... He spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is on 
Lebanon even to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall ; 
he spake also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, 
and of fishes/ Here we see that several sages of less 
celebrity than Solomon, men like Ethan, Heman, Calcol, 
and Darda, held a distinguished place in the memory of their 
fellow countrymen. 

In the Book of Wisdom (vii. 17-21), Solomon is intro- 
duced speaking of himself according to the popular view: 
* God gave me an unerring knowledge of all things that are, 
to know the constitution of the world and the operation of 
the elements; the beginning, and end, and middle of times, 
the circuits of years, and the dispositions of stars, the alterna- 
tions of the solstices, and the changes of seasons ; the nature 
of living creatures, and the raging of wild beasts, the violence 
of winds, and the thoughts of men; the diversities of plants, 
and the virtues of roots. All things that are secret and un- 
foreseen, I learned, for she that is the artificer of all things 
taught me, even wisdom/ 

3. From the first the contemplation of the created world 
was exalted by the Jews to the honours of poetical treatment. 
In no other ancient literature has nature given to poets more 
copious and purer springs of inspiration. On this subject 
Alexander von Humboldt has expressed some noble and 
true thoughts: 'It is characteristic of Hebrew poetry in 
reference to nature that, as a reflex of monotheism, it always 
embraces the whole world in its unity, comprehending the 

1 1 Kings iv. 30-33. 

Introduction 5 

life of the terrestrial globe as well as the shining regions of 
space. It dwells less on details of phenomena, and loves to 
contemplate great masses. Nature is portrayed, not as self- 
subsisting, or glorious in her own beauty, but ever in relation 
to a higher, an over-ruling, a spiritual power. The Hebrew 
bard ever sees in her the living expression of the omni- 
presence of God in the works of the visible creation. Thus, 
the lyrical poetry of the Hebrews in its descriptions of nature 
is essentially, in its very subject, grand and solemn V 

4. The similes and comparisons in the Biblical writers, 
taken from the heaven, the earth, the abysses, the sea, the 
phenomena of air and water, and from the whole animal and 
vegetable world, are numberless. The vivid impression 
which those writers received from this source finds expression 
of the sublimest kind in the work of one of their greatest 
thinkers, the author of the Book of Job. In chapters xxxviii 
and xxxix, which may be considered to be one of the finest 
passages of Hebrew literature, God is Himself introduced as 
speaking, with the object of convincing Job that he is wrong 
to lament his misfortunes, unmerited though they are.. He 
makes Job see that he has no knowledge of the dispositions 
according to which the world is constituted and governed, 
and that he cannot comprehend any part of the designs of 
the Almighty. With this aim in view He places before Job's 
eyes, in order, the great mysteries of nature, so that Job may 
be convinced of his ignorance and nothingness : 

38 2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel 
By words without knowledge ? 

3 Gird up now thy loins like a man ; 

For I will ask of thee, and declare thou unto me. 

4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth ? 
Declare, if thou hast understanding. 

1 A. von Humboldt, Cosmos (Eng. tr. by Lt-CoL E. Sabine, ii. 44). 

6 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

5 Who determined the measures thereof, if thou knowest ? 
Or who stretched the line upon it ? 

6 Whereupon were the foundations thereof fastened? 
Or who laid the corner stone thereof; 

7 When the morning stars sang together, 
And all the sons of God shouted for joy ? 

8 Or who shut up the sea with doors, 

When it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb ; 

9 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, 
And thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, 

10 And prescribed for it my decree, 
And set bars and doors, 

11 And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; 
And here shall thy proud waves be stayed ? 

12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days began, 
And caused the dayspring to know its place ? 

16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? 
Or hast thou walked in the recesses of the deep ? 

17 Have the gates of death been revealed unto thee ? 
Or hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of death ? 

18 Hast thou comprehended the breadth of the earth? 
Declare, if thou knowest it all. 

19 Where is the way to the dwelling of light, 

And as for darkness, where is the place thereof ; 

20 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, 

And that thou shouldest discern the paths to the house 
thereof ? 

21 Doubtless, thou knowest, for thou wast then born, 
And the number of thy days is great ! 

22 Hast thou entered the treasuries of the snow, 
Or hast thou seen the treasuries of the hail, 

23 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, 
Against the day of battle and war ? 

24 By what way is the light parted, 

Or the east wind scattered upon the earth ? 

25 Who hath cleft a channel for the water-flood, 
Or a way for the lightning of the thunder ; 

26 To cause it to rain on a land where no man is ; 
On the wilderness, wherein there is no man ; 

Introduction 7 

27 To satisfy the waste and desolate ground ; 
And to cause the tender grass to spring forth ? 

28 Hath the rain a father ? 

Or who hath begotten the drops of dew ? 

29 Out of whose womb came the ice ? 

And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it ? 

30 The waters are hidden as with stone, 
And the face of the deep is frozen. 

31 Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, 
Or loose the bands of Orion ? 

82 Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth 1 in their season ? 
Or canst thou guide *Ayish and her children ? 

33 Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens ? 

Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the 

34 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, 
That abundance of waters may cover thee ? 

35 Canst thou send forth lightnings, that they may go, 

And say unto thee, Here we are ? 
• •••••♦••■ 

37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? 
Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven, 

38 When the dust runneth into a mass, 
And the clods cleave fast together ? 

39 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lioness ? 
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 

40 When they couch in their dens, 

And abide in the covert to lie in wait ? 

41 Who provideth for the raven his food, 
When his young ones cry unto God, 
And wander for lack of meat ? 

39 Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rode 
bring forth ? 
Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve ? 

2 Canst thou number the months that they fulfil ? 
Or knowest thou the time when they bring forth ? 

3 They bow themselves, they bring forth their young, 
They cast out their sorrows. 

1 On Mazzaroth and % Ayisk t see below §§41, 63, and 69. 

8 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

4 Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up in the 

open field ; 
They go forth, and return not again. 

5 Who hath sent out the wild ass free ? 

Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass ? 

6 Whose house I have made the wilderness, 
And the salt land his dwelling place. 

7 He scorneth the tumult of the city, 

Neither heareth he the shoutings of the driver. 

8 The range of the mountains is his pasture, 
And he searcheth after every green thing. 

9 Will the wild-ox be content to serve thee ? 
Or will he abide by thy crib ? 

10 Canst thou bind the wild-ox with his band in the furrow ? 
Or will he harrow the valleys after thee ? 

11 Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? 
Or wilt thou leave to him thy labour ? 

12 Wilt thou confide in him, that he will bring home thy seed, 
And gather the corn of thy threshing-floor ? 

13 The wing of the ostrich rejoiceth ; 

But are her pinions and feathers kindly ? 

14 For she leaveth her eggs on the earth, 
And warmeth them in the dust, 

15 And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, 
Or that the wild beast may trample them. 

16 She is hardened against her young ones, as if they were 

not hers : 
Though her labour be in vain, she is without fear ; 

17 Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, 
Neither hath he imparted to her understanding. 

18 What time she lifteth up herself on high, 

She scorneth the horse and his rider. "' 

19 Hast thou given the horse his might? 

Hast thou clothed his neck with the quivering mane ? 

20 Hast thou made him to leap as a locust ? 
The glory of his snorting is terrible. 

21 He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength : 
He goeth out to meet the armed men. 

22 He mocketh at fear, and is not dismayed ; 
Neither turneth he back from the sword. 

Introduction 9 

23 The quiver rattleth upon him, 
The flashing spear and the javelin. 

24 He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage ; 
Neither standeth he still at the sound of the trumpet. 

25 As oft as the trumpet soundeth he saith, Aha ! 
And he smelleth the battle afar off, 

The thunder of the captains, and the shouting. 

26 Doth the hawk soar by thy wisdom, 
And stretch her wings toward the south ? 

27 Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, 
And make her nest on high ? 

28 She dwelleth on the rock, and hath her lodging there, 
Upon the crag of the rock, and the strong hold. 

29 From thence she spieth out the prey ; 
Her eyes behold it afar off. 

30 Her young ones also suck up blood : 
And where the slain are, there is she. 

40 2 Shall he that cavilleth contend with the Almighty ? 
He that argueth with God, let him answer it. 

This superb enumeration, which will only appear long to 
those who are accustomed to judge everything according to 
the ideas of their own time, contains a complete picture of 
the physical world, such as perhaps had not previously been 
conceived by any one. Nor is this the only review of the 
works of nature with which we meet in the Old Testament. 
There are, besides, the well-known account offered by 
Genesis in the story of the creation, and the grand descrip- 
tion to be found in Psalm civ 1 . Noteworthy also, if shorter 
and less complete, are the other picture in Job (ch. xxvi), 
and those in Psalms cxxxvi and cxlviii and in Proverbs 
(ch. viii). We see that this subject, both through its grandeur 
and through its variety, riveted the imagination of the people, 

1 We may add that in Ecclus. xliii, and the one contained in the 
Song of the Three Children in the furnace (Dan. iii. 52-90, Apoc), 
which are wanting in the Hebrew Bible and are to be considered as more 
recent imitations. 

io Astronomy in the Old Testament 

and gave to their greatest poets opportunities for attractive 
pictures which are capable of arousing admiration as much 
now, and at all times, as they were then. 

5. In these fine passages there emerges beyond all other 
considerations the admiring and enthusiastic contemplation 
of the heaven, the earth, the abysses, in short, of the whole 
grand fabric of the universe. And, as mystery is always the 
source of marvel and wonder, the effect on these minds, 
ignorant of doubt and criticism, was so much the greater, as 
the heavens, the earth below its surface, the bottom of the 
sea, the abysses, were considered to be secrets, inscrutable to 
human thought. 'Knowest thou the ordinances of the 
heavens ? ' is a question which God asks of Job along with 
a number of others which are equally hard to answer \ The 
same conception is to be found in the Book of Wisdom : 
' And hardly do we divine the things that are on earth, and 
the things that are close at hand we find with labour ; but the 
things that are in the heavens, who ever yet traced out 2 ?' It 
was considered impossible for man to arrive at the under- 
standing of such secrets ; and hence every attempt to acquire 
it was useless, unless it were gained by special gift of God, 
as appears to have been understood to be the case with 
Solomon 3 . But what chiefly alienated the Jews from the 
study of the visible heavens was the consideration that the 
neighbouring nations of Mesopotamia had been conducted 
from astronomy to astrology, and from astrology to astrolatry, 
that is to say, to the worship of the sun, the moon, l and 
all the host of heaven ' : a worship which was, for the Jews, 
no less of an abomination than sacrifices to Baal, Astarte, or 
Moloch, and had become all the more detestable since the 
time when, under certain kings of Judah, such a cultus had 
finally penetrated into Jerusalem, and profaned the Temple 

1 Job xxxviii. 33. a Wisd. ix. 16. 

8 This is expressly affirmed in Wisd. vii. 17, in Solomon's name. 

Introduction n 

of Yahwe itsel£ Accordingly the prophets never wearied of 
threatening the most terrible judgements on star- worshippers. 
One of the greatest writers of the Exile, the anonymous 
author of the second part (ch. xl-lxvi) of the book bearing 
the name of Isaiah, when foretelling the humiliation of Baby- 
lon, exclaimed 1 : * There arise, therefore, in thy help the 
measurers of the heaven, the star-gazers, who, at each new 
moon, proclaim the things that shall come upon thee. Be- 
hold, they are as stubble, the fire burneth them; they 
deliver not themselves from the power of the flame/ Jere- 
miah says to the sinners of the kingdom of Judah a : ' In 
that day, saith the Lord, shall the bones of the king of Judah 
be brought out of their graves, and the bones of his princes, 
and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, 
and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And they 
shall be spread before the sun, and the moon, and all the 
host of heaven, which they have loved and served, and after 
which they have walked, and which they have sought, and 
which they have worshipped ; they shall not be gathered nor 
buried, but shall be for dung upon the face of the earth/ 
Similarly, Zephaniah, speaking in the name of the Lord 3 : 
1 1 will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all 
the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and I will scatter . . . those 
that worship the host of heaven upon the house-tops, and 
after worshipping and swearing to the Lord, swear to Milcom 
also/ In Isaiah we find horror against star-worship carried 
to the point of causing him to predict the destruction of the 
stars 4 : 'And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and 
the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their 
host shall fall down, as a leaf falleth off from a vine or 
from a fig-tree/ The enforced contact into which Israel 
was destined to come with her oppressors of Nineveh and 

1 Isa. xlvii. 13, 14. ■ Jer. viii. 1, 2. 8 Zeph. i. 4, 5. 

4 Isa. xxxiv. 4. 

12 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

Babylon, certainly could not induce her to participate in their 
customs, their arts, and their science ; she concentrated her- 
self on her own struggle and her own hopes, looking for 
better times. 

6. In view of these considerations, there is no occasion for 
surprise in the fact that astronomy among the Jews remained 
practically at the stage which we know to have been attained 
(and, for that matter, sometimes surpassed) by some native 
peoples of America and Polynesia. But the Jews have had 
the fortune to preserve through the centuries the better 
part of their literature, and the still more remarkable fortune 
of seeing this literature spread through the whole world as 
the primary basis of Christianity, and thus become the 
intellectual heritage, if not of the largest, at any rate of the 
most intelligent part of the human race. It follows that, 
much more than with the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the 
Phoenicians, and the early Arabs, we are in a position to form 
a definite idea of the Jewish astronomical notions and of Jewish 
cosmography, favoured as we are in this by the fact that 
the Biblical writers make so many allusions to these subjects. 

This thought has moved me to believe that it might be 
a work of some interest to discover what ideas the ancient 
Jewish sages held regarding the structure of the universe, 
what observations they made of the stars, and how far they 
made use of them for the measurement and division of time. 
It is certainly not in this field that Jewish thought appears 
in its greatest originality or power. Yet it is also true 
that nothing can be indifferent in the life of that remarkable 
people whose historical importance is certainly not less for 
us than that of the Greeks and Romans. 

7. The foundation for such researches must naturally be 
laid in the Hebrew text of the books composing the Old 
Testament, wherever, that is to say, we feel secure that our 
interpretation of its sense is correct. It must, indeed, be 

Introduction 13 

admitted that we are still far from this position; there is 
a large number of words and phrases in regard to which 
the most eminent commentators have not been able to agree. 
And in this number many are words describing astro- 
nomical facts and phenomena. It might be supposed that 
we ought here to hope for much assistance from the ancient 
versions, and especially from the Septuagint, a translation 
made by Hellenistic Jews not more than two or three 
centuries after Ezra, and consequently at an epoch when 
the genuine tradition as to the meaning of every Hebrew 
word in the sacred writings should have still been alive 
among the doctors of the Law. But in actual fact I have 
not found that this hope is materially confirmed, at least 
in the, present instance: whether because in treating of 
subjects which may be described as technical and not always 
familiar to the majority of men, it easily happened that the 
true meaning of the words relating to them became rapidly 
lost; or because in this version and the others comparable 
to it in point of antiquity (Aquila, Symmachus, the Vulgate, 
the Peshitta), made exclusively for religious use and for the 
edification of the faithful, it was not really necessary and not 
even particularly useful to take trouble in seeking for an 
irreproachable version of such scientific minutiae, which in 
many cases could not be found. In such cases of grave 
doubt I have had no other alternative open to me than to 
leave the judgement to the reader without prejudice, after 
having faithfully expounded the position of the question and 
having placed before him the opinions of the most authori- 
tative interpreters and commentators, while at the same time 
indicating what views appear unlikely and which seem to 
have the greatest probability in their favour. 

8. This is not, however, the only difficulty with which 
our undertaking meets. Under one name, and in one volume 
of no great bulk, the Old Testament contains many writings 

14 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

of very different epochs ; and it would be hard to assert that 
they all contained an absolutely identical conception of the 
world and of celestial phenomena. And although it is true 
that, as we are treating of ideas which are quite primitive 
and depend upon the simplest testimony of the senses, we 
cannot look for much diversity in such a subject-matter, 
we must also admit that discrepancies in details are found 
here and there between one writer and another. We have 
an example of this in the theories of rain held by the 
authors of Genesis and of Job. Yet, speaking generally, so 
far as cosmology is concerned, all the writers appear to have 
conceived the facts of nature according to a common type 
of view which does not vary in its main outlines. 

One meets with more difference between the various 
epochs of Biblical Judaism in what concerns the manner 
of marking the divisions of time, and in the use of fixed 
septenary periods. It is impossible to grasp these sub- 
jects in their historical order, without determining approxi- 
mately, in regard to some of the writers cited in evidence, 
the period at which they lived: in several cases, and 
especially in those of the writers in the Pentateuch (who 
are the most important), these epochs still form the subject 
of the hottest disputes. Thus, to take an example, in order 
to judge adequately of the historical value of the surviving 
notices affecting the great half-century period of the Jubilee, 
it is necessary to know approximately at what epoch chapters 
xxv and xxvii of Leviticus were written: some believe 
these chapters to be the work of Moses himself, others 
date their composition about 1,000 years later, after Ezral 

9. The critical analysis of the Pentateuch, both literary 
and historical, is a difficult problem, on which the most 
learned investigators have been engaged with the greatest 
industry for a century and a half; unfortunately, the results 
have not always been proportionate to the extent and merits 

Introduction 15 

of their labours. Their researches, being conducted by 
methods mostly conjectural (and indeed the material rarely 
admits the use of any others) and founded on criteria that 
are too often entirely subjective, have led from the first 
to a chaos of discordant conclusions. For in this, as in 
all scientific problems of great complication and difficulty, 
it seems that the human mind is condemned not to attain 
the truth without having first tried a large number of 
mistaken hypotheses and passed through a whole labyrinth 
of error. However, the patience and perseverance of these 
investigators has occasionally been rewarded by the dis- 
covery of some particular facts which they have succeeded 
in proving in a manner sufficiently plausible and convincing. 
The accurate study of these facts, and of their relationship, 
and the careful arrangement of them have borne good fruit. 
In the midst of many aberrations and contradictions, there 
has gradually come to be traced out during the last fifty 
years a line of inquiry which is less arbitrary and founded 
on more secure principles, the results of which, successively 
corrected by severe criticism, seem to rest on a foundation 
sufficiently solid to inspire a definite degree of confidence. 
I allude to the theory of Reuss and Graf, with which many 
Of the most authoritative scholars have recently come to 
agree l : it will suffice to name Wellhausen, who, in his 

1 Two Italian writers have also founded their important labours on 
the hypothesis of Reuss : Castelli (Storia degli Israelili t a vols., Hoepli, 
Milan, 1887-8), and Revel (Letteratura Ebraica, 2 vols., Hoepli, Milan, 
1 888). Both deserve praise for the spirit of fairness and moderation 
which they have brought to the treatment of these thorny problems. 
Castelli in another work (La Legge del popolo Ebred) has further 
proposed some additions and modifications to Reuss's theory. [The 
English reader may be referred to Reuss' s own work VHistoire Sainte 
tt la Loi (1879), being the introductory volume to his translation into 
French of the entire Bible. See also W. Robertson Smith's Old Testa- 
ment in the Jewish Churchy or Driver's Introduction to the Literature 
of the Old Testament.] 

i6 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels \ has established its 
foundations in the clearest and most rigorous fashion. If 
we strip off from these writers' arguments as much as appears 
to be less securely asserted and less effectually proved, there 
yet remains the possibility of establishing with sufficient 
historical probability this important fact: that the final 
redaction of the Pentateuch, far from being contemporary 
with the entry of the children of Israel from Egypt to the 
land of Canaan, belongs rather lo the latest times of Biblical 
Judaism, and forms, so to speak, its final and most complete 
product. The Pentateuch appears as a compilation of 
religious, historical, and legislative matter, belonging to the 
most different epochs, from Moses to after Ezra: a com- 
pilation the materials of which are not always fused together, 
but very frequently placed merely in juxtaposition, so as to 
allow an approximate reconstitution of the original docu- 
ments, or at any rate a probable classification according to 
tendencies and dates. 

10. As regards its religious and legislative part, which 
affords more facilities for analysis, we can distinguish three 
strata : — 

(i) The First Code or Book of the Covenant 1 , which repre- 
sents for us the most ancient and most simple form of 
the laws of Mosaism. This has been preserved (though not, 
as it appears, quite completely) in Exodus, chapters xxi- 
xxiii, and is preceded by the Decalogue which forms a sort 
of introduction to it. Its date is uncertain ; but I shall show 
hereafter by certain internal marks that it ought in any case 
to be considered as earlier than the age of Solomon. I 
believe that it very probably represents the first codification 
of the ancient usages and rites of the people of Israel, 
according to the principles and traditions traced to Moses. 

1 Sephtr Btrith, expressly cited under this name in Exod. xxiv. 8. 

Introduction 17 


(ii) The Prophetic Code, including the greater part of what 
we now call Deuteronomy 1 , represents the collection of the 
laws of Moses as they were understood by the prophets 
of the two centuries preceding the destruction of the first 
Temple. This too is preceded by the Decalogue, which 
serves as an introduction to it. It is generally allowed that 
the " book of the law," found in the Temple and proclaimed 
by King Josiah of Judah 2 in 621 B.C., was no other than 
the Prophetic Code, (iii) All the other laws of the Penta- 
teuch which remain after excluding the First Code and the 
Prophetic Code are comprehended (with some small ex- 
ceptions) in the Priestly Code y so called because of the great 
prominence assumed in it by the exposition of ritual and 
the theory of ceremonies. These laws take the form, not so 
much of a real code, as of a collection of rules and ordinances 
of every age, imperfectly arranged, some of them repeating, 
with more or less modification, those of the earlier codes, 
others seeming to reproduce under the form of the service 
of the tabernacle the ritual of Solomon's Temple ; the greater 
part contains all the studies and speculations made during 
the exile and from the exile down to comparatively late 
times (i.e. to about 400 b.c) on the civil and religious order 
which was to be given to the new hierocratic community, 
which was gradually being formed round the second Temple. 
11. To the Priestly Code there came to be united a brief 
narrative of the origins of the world and of man, the story 
of the flood and the patriarchs, of the liberation from Egypt, 
of the law given at Sinai, and the conquest of the land of 
Canaan. This narrative, distinguished by its mass of num- 
bers and genealogical schemes, was intended primarily to 
serve as an historical introduction to the Mosaic laws, and 
as a commentary illustrating their origin and the reason for 
their existence — without entering too much into other par- 

1 Strictly speaking, Deut. v-xxv. a 2 Kings xxii-xxiii. 

sch. C 

18 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

ticulars. Fortunately, the compiler of the Pentateuch had 
at his disposal, besides this account, another of the same 
facts, far more detailed and picturesque, gathered from old 
chronicles, songs, and popular oral traditions, at a time 
much nearer to the events related, while the kingdoms of 
Israel and Judah still existed before the Assyrian invasion. 
This second narrative was interwoven by him with the first, 
and to it is principally due that simple and inimitable beauty 
which distinguishes the historical part of the Pentateuch. 
The two narratives are so different in style, and the final 
compiler has so religiously preserved the original diction 
(only making excisions when useless repetitions would other- 
wise have occurred), that very often it is possible successfully 
to separate what belongs to the one or the other of the two 
narrators \ and to judge in this way what degree of antiquity 
or authority is to be attributed to this or that particular of 
the facts related. 

This much may suffice to give an idea of the criteria 
on which I have believed that I ought to rely, in cases 
where it is of importance to have some kind of notion of 
the date at which a given passage was written, whether in 
the Pentateuch, or in the Book of Joshua, which may be 

1 This must not, however, be carried to the extreme of supposing that 
we can separate and assign to their authors every chapter or verse or 
fragments of verses, as some have recently believed that they can. As 
in such an operation analysis endeavours to pass the fixed limits within 
which a reasonable agreement can be obtained, and within which such 
an agreement has in fact been obtained, it falls on the shifting and 
difficult ground of personal opinions, and criticism ceases to be a science 
worthy of respect. On this and other abuses in the analysis and 
interpretation of the Biblical texts, see the severe and just reflections of 
Prof. F. Scerbo in his work entitled, // Vecchio Testamento e la critica 
odierna, Florence, 1902 ; and in the same sense Castelli, Storia cUgh 
Israelii i, Introd. pp. lvii-lviii. The result of these excesses has been to 
create in regard to these studies an atmosphere of doubt and distrust 
which is extremely injurious to the cause of truth. 

Introduction 19 

considered as an appendix dependent on the same sources. 
Speaking generally, the conclusions to which I have been 
brought within the narrow field of my present studies have con- 
firmed the accuracy of these criteria, and have thus contributed 
something towards establishing them still more firmly. 

For other books of the Old Testament, the chronological 
question does not exist, or at least it does not exist in such 
a way as to assume much importance. None of the his- 
torical books, beginning with the Book of Judges and going 
down to the Books of Chronicles, has giveri rise to such 
grave differences of opinion as those of which the Pentateuch 
and the Book of Joshua are still the subject. On the other 
hand, the date of some of the so-called Hagiographa, and 
especially of the collections of Psalms and Proverbs and 
the Book of Job (which is so important for our pur- 
pose), is still more or less uncertain. But it will be seen 
that the notices taken from these sources belong for the 
most part to the general heritage of Jewish wisdom, and 
the precise determination of their date rarely has to be con- 
sidered as of great importance for our purpose. 

12. So much may be said about the books of the Old 
Testament, which are our principal and practically our only 
source of information. It may now be asked whether the 
people of Israel, which is found at different times in close 
contact with peoples of advanced culture, such as were the 
Egyptians, the Phoenicians, and the Babylonians, might not 
have absorbed a portion of their ideas: in which case we 
should have a new line of evidence. 

To this it may be answered that, so far as Egypt is 
concerned, the many years which the Jews according to 
tradition passed there before the time of Moses, do not 
seem to have left many noteworthy traces upon them. The 
Jews took but little from the Egyptians : so little as to give 
rise in some modern writers to the supposition that the 

c 2 

20 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

sojourn in Egypt and the exodus following upon it are pure 
legend and devoid of historical foundation. 

The culture of the Phoenicians, who belonged to the 
family of the Canaanites and spoke a language which was 
almost identical with that of the Jews, was certainly bound 
to exercise a powerful influence over them : signs of this 
are found in the oldest Jewish calendar, but still more in 
the continued tendency, lasting through several centuries 
and only repressed with difficulty, to fall into the idolatry 
of the Canaanites. A comparison of the Biblical writings 
with the historical, religious, and literary monuments of the 
Phoenicians would therefore be interesting in many respects. 
Unfortunately, nearly all these monuments are lost; nor can 
the so-called Sanchuniathon give any assistance for our 
object. We can only imagine in general that the Phoe- 
nicians, being accustomed to commerce on a large scale 
and to long voyages, must have possessed, more than 
other peoples, extensive and exact notions of geography, 
astronomy, meteorology, and the principles of navigation : 
what these were, it is no longer possible to know. From 
the Phoenician inscriptions, however, some information can 
be derived relating to the oldest Jewish calendar which was 
in use down to the times of Solomon. 

The case is rather more favourable in regard to the 
Babylonians, on whose literature the cuneiform inscriptions 
begin to throw some light. In the course of this book oppor- 
tunities will occur from time to time for making useful and 
interesting comparisons between the cosmographical con- 
ceptions of the Jews and of the Babylonians. Yet these are 
not so numerous as some might imagine. In spite of the 
close analogy between the two languages, pointing to a 
common origin, the wide difference between the historical 
evolution of the two peoples has resulted in destroying many 
important similarities and producing many profound differ- 

Introduction 21 

ences. I will content myself, remaining within the limits of 
my subject, with pointing to the deeply significant fact that 
of the five or six names of constellations occurring in the Old 
Testament, not one has been hitherto recognized among the 
numerous names of constellations found on the cuneiform 
inscriptions. Nor should this give rise to any surprise. 
Even after having subjugated and assimilated the peoples of 
Canaan, the Israelites preserved many traditions from the 
time when they wandered in the state of nomadic tribes in 
the deserts of Arabia and Syria. The Babylonians, on the 
other hand, were heirs of the Sumerian culture, adopted its 
principal elements, and developed in a totally different 
direction from the Jews. 

It is no doubt possible that, in the Jewish writings of the 
Hellenistic and the Talmudic periods, cosmological ideas are 
here and there concealed, which are derived from Babylonian 
science. This is perhaps the case with the singular cosmo- 
graphy adopted in the pseudonymous Book of Enoch, 
presenting noteworthy analogies with the cosmography which 
we find expounded in the sacred books of Mazdeism 1 . 
These analogies would in themselves provide a problem 
worthy of study, and they would probably result in the belief 
that the Jews and the Mazdeists derived the doctrine in 
question from a common source, which could only be 
Babylonian science in the last stage of its evolution. The 
problem would lie outside the limits set for the present work, 
in which it is proposed only to consider pure Biblical 
Hebraism, and not Hebraism as modified by Hellenism and 
by the influence of oriental doctrines. 

1 Not, strictly speaking, in the extant part of the Avesta, bnt 
in the treatise Bundahish, the material of which is believed to be 
derived from lost books of the Avesta, i.e. from the Ddmddd iVask and 
perhaps also from the Nddar Nask, the 4th and 5th books of the twenty- 
one which originally composed the Avesta. (See West, Pahlavi Texts , 
iv. 14, 414, 421, 434, 445, 465.) 



General arrangement of the world. — The earth's disk. — Limits of the 
regions known to the Jews, — The earth's foundations. — The abyss 
and Sheol. — The firmament. — The upper and lower waters. — 
Theory of subterranean waters and of springs, of rain, snow, and 
hail : the clouds. — General idea of Hebrew cosmography. 

13. About the form and general arrangement of the visible 
world the Jews had much the same ideas as we find originally 
in all peoples, ideas which have satisfied at every time the 
greater part of men even among nations with a pretence to 
culture : in fact, the cosmography of appearances. 

A nearly plane surface including the continents and seas 
constituted the earth destined for men's habitation. The 
universe was divided into two parts, upper and lower. 
Above was heaven, the Hebrew shamqyim or the uplifted x y 
with the appearance of a large vault supported round about 
upon the extreme parts of the earth. Heaven includes all 
the upper part of the world : it is the kingdom of light and 
of meteors, and the stars revolve in its highest part Under 
the surface of the earth are the actual mass of the earth, and 
the depth of the sea, forming together the lower part of the 
universe, dark and unknown : this came, in opposition to 
heaven, to be described by the name (thorn (or plural tehomdth) 

1 If at least we may accept Gesenius's derivation from the root saw J, 
which is preserved in Arabic with the meaning alius fuit f and also 
apparens, conspicuusfuit. (Gesenius, Thcs. p. 1433, nomen habei coelum 
ab elatione et allitudine,) 

The Firmament \ Earth , Abysses 23 

having the sense of depth and rendered by abyss in the Greek 
and Latin translations of the Bible, a word which has now 
passed into general use among ourselves also \ 

14. The vast plain of the earth, partly occupied by the 
sea, partly by continents studded with mountains and furrowed 
by rivers, is of a circular shape, like the heaven which covers 
it; it is surrounded by water which extends as far as the 
point where the heaven begins. So we read in the Book of 
Job (xxvi. 10) that God ' fixed a circle as limit to the waters, 
at the boundary of light and darkness ' : that is to say, at the 
point where the illuminated part of the world (land, sea, and 
heaven) comes into contact with the dark part (the abysses 
and the depth of the sea). Similarly in Proverbs (viii. 27) 
mention is made of the time when God ■ drew the circle which 
is over the surface of the deep/ This circle can be nothing 
else than the visible limit where the heaven and the 
sea encircling the continents touch each other round about. 
It is probably to this circle that allusion is made in Job (xxii. 
14) where God is described as * walking in the circuit of 
heaven ' — that is to say, the spherical space bounded by the 
circle which forms the limit of heaven and earth. The 
distance between heaven and earth and the dimensions of 

1 Gesenius derives tZhom from the root hum, signifying disturbance, 
violent motion, confusion : whence this word could be applied to the 
sea and to any large body of water. The Biblical writers certainly 
often use ttkom in the former sense, more rarely in the latter. This 
agrees well with the recently-noticed analogy with the Assyrian tiamtu = 
sea, see Schrader, KA T. ' p. 6 [ The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old 
Testament : English translation by O. C. Whitehouse, where the 
German pages are given in the margin]. But, that the Jews always 
included in the word tZhom the idea of depth, even when using it of the 
sea, is proved by the tradition (in this respect most trustworthy) of 
the LXX ; there it is invariably considered as equivalent to afivaaos, 
which implies great depth, or, strictly speaking, something bottomless. 
The passages of the Bible in which this word indicates the lower or deeper 
parts of the universe, will be collected further on. 

24 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

earth itself are immense and such that no man can measure 
them. * Who hath fixed the measures of the earth ? ' God 
asks of Job (xxxviii. 5), * or who placed the line above it to 
measure it ? ' And elsewhere (xxxviii. 18) : ' Hast thou known 
the breadth of the earth ? declare it me, thou who knowest 
everything/ So absurd did the idea of being able to measure 
heaven and earth appear, that Jeremiah makes the Lord say, 
to indicate something impossible (xxxi. 37): * When the 
heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the 
earth can be searched out beneath, then only will I cast off 
from me all the seed of Israel/ The great height of the 
heavens and the circular form of the earth are clearly 
indicated in Isaiah (xl. 22): 'He (the Lord) sitteth on high 
above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants of it are to 
him as locusts 1 / In the centre of the terrestrial circle is 
Palestine, Jerusalem being the absolute centre : ' Thus saith 
the Lord : this is Jerusalem ; I have placed her in the midst of 

1 The word used here is hug= circle ; from the same root comes 
mehugah = compass (Isa. xliv. 13). The phrase orbis terrarum, so 
common in the Vulgate, is to be understood to imply (as always with 
Latin writers) the whole of the known regions of the earth, without 
adding any idea of roundness. Similarly, the word Erdkreis and the 
inappropriate form Erdball t which German translators have introduced 
into the Bible where Erde alone would have been the literal equivalent, 
are to be understood in the same way. From a passage in Isaiah (xi. 12) 
and another in Ezekiel (vii. 2), where mention is made of the four 
kanephoth of the earth, some have wished to conclude that the Jews 
pictured the earth to themselves as square : but there is little ground 
for this theory. The parallel passages of Isaiah (xxiv. 16) and Job 
(xxxvii. 3 and xxxviii. 13) show that the allusion here is to the extreme 
parts of the terrestrial disk, corresponding to the directions of the four 
principal winds (see below, § 22). This is the only possible way of 
reconciling the four kanephoth with the circular form of the earth and 
the heaven. — The four edges of the earth recall the title ■ King of the 
four parts of the earth ' (tar kibrat irbitti) which is used by many 
kings of Babylonia and Assyria and contains an analogous idea (see 
Jensen, Kosmologie der Babylonier, p. 167 sqq.). 

The Firmament \ Earth, Abysses 25 

the nations, and all the lands are in a circle round about 
her V 

15. On the plain thus described there are arranged round 
the centre the nations of the earth and Noah's descendants, 
as expounded in Genesis x. They occupy round the centre 
a space whose limits, for the Jews before the exile, did not 
exceed thirty degrees (about 1875 English miles), whether 
latitudinally or longitudinally. The furthest countries in any 
sense known were: to the east, Persia and Susiana {Paras 
and Elam), with Media (Madai) 2 : to the north, Caucasia, 
Armenia, the regions of Asia Minor along the Black Sea 
(Magog, Togarmah, Ararat, Gomer)*; to the west, the 
southern outskirts of Greece, the Archipelago, Ionia (Elisha, 
Javan), Crete (CaphtorT), and the Libyan peoples west of 
Egypt (Lubim) ; to the south, Ethiopia (Cush, Phut ?), Yemen 
{Saba), Hadramaut (Hazarmaveih), and eastern Arabia (Ophtr, 
Regma [R.V. Raamah]), completed the circle. Of the 
southern extremity of Europe they had only a general and 

1 Ezek. v. 5. In the Vulgate and LXX the navel of the earth is 
mentioned more than once (Judg. ix. 37; Ezek. xxxviii. 12). Recent 
interpreters, instead of this, translate by c lofty places ' or c heights of the 
earth,* understanding the word ' navel ' in a metaphorical sense. We 
cannot, therefore, use these texts as evidence of Jewish cosmography. 
The conception of Jerusalem's central position was also adopted by 
some Christian writers of the first centuries and of the Middle Ages : it 
formed, as is well known, a fundamental point in Dante's geography. 

3 Some believe the 'land of Sinim' (Isa. xlix. 12) actually to 
represent China. This hypothesis is more ingenious than probable. 
The LXX evidently did not think of China, as they translate Ik yijs 
Tlepawv. See, on the other side, Gesenius, Thes. pp. 948-50. The opinion 
which would recognize in Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal (Ezek. xxxviii. 1, 3) 
the names of Russia, Moscow, and Tobolsk, is entirely absurd. But it 
is probable that Hodu (Esther i. 1, and viii. 9) does really represent India, 
some knowledge of which, after the expedition of Alexander, might 
have reached as far as Palestine [so A.V. and R.V.]. 

3 For Ezekiel (xxxviii. 6), Togarmah is the most northerly country of 
the inhabited earth. 

26 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

very confused idea (' the islands of the nations '), which they 
undoubtedly derived from the stories of the Phoenicians who 
had told them of the marvels of Tarshish l . 

The Jews knew, besides the Mediterranean (called by them 
yam haggadol, i.e. great sea, or yam haaharon, i. e. western sea), 
the Red Sea {yam suph, i. e. sea of weeds, or yam Mizrayim, 
i. e. sea of Egypt), and the Dead Sea {yam hammelah, i. e. sea 
of salt, oryam ha'arabah, i. e. sea of the steppe). They may 
possibly, even before the exile, have had some knowledge of the 
Persian Gulf and the Black Sea ; but no mention of them is 
found in the books of the Old Testament. A passage in 
Genesis might lead us to believe that they conceived all the seas 
as being in communication with each other 2 . But in that case 
the connexion with the Dead Sea could be only subterranean. 

Besides the portions inhabited by Noah's descendants 
there were other districts, imagined rather than known, 
extending to the great surrounding sea which was supposed 
to touch the columns of heaven, that is to say, the base of 
the great vault 8 . Genesis and several of the prophets 4 speak 
of the ' garden of God ' in the region called Eden, the first 
home of Adam and Eve. They seem to have thought of 
this place as in the eastern parts of the earth, a supposition 
which was preserved throughout Christian tradition down to 
Christopher Columbus. Still more east than Eden they 
placed the land of Nod (LXX, Na/8), the abode of Cain and 
his descendants (Gen. iv. 16). 

1 This was an exceedingly rich country situated in the extreme west 
at a great and uncertain distance. It is not quite certain to what it 
corresponds : a plausible hypothesis, resting on the authority of the 
LXX, is that it refers to Carthage. 

2 Gen. i. 9 : * Let all the waters that are beneath the heaven be 
gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear.* 

8 For the foundations and columns of heaven, see a Sam. xxii. 8, 
Job xxvi. ii. 

* Gen. ii. 8, iv. 16; Ezek.xxxi.8,o, 16, i8,xxxvi.35; 3; Joel it 3. 

The Firmament, Earth, Abysses 27 

16. The plain formed of earth and seas was thought of as 
finite, and as included within fixed limits, which are frequently 
mentioned 1 . The earth is firmly fixed in its place: we 
often hear of its foundations and of its corner-stones 2 , by ^ 
a simile taken from human buildings. Not that these corner 
points are to be regarded as resting on a base ; for on what 
then would the base rest? They are simply fixed unalter- 
ably by the Divine will; and the earth cannot move from 
them in any respect, except when Yahwe himself shakes 
them, as happens in an earthquake 3 . The earth then, with 
its corners fixed, has no need of a base or support outside 
itself: thus alone can we understand the expression in Psalm 
cxxxvi that 'the earth is founded on the waters/ and how 
Job can say (xxvi. 7) that the earth is 'founded upon 
nothing/ These are simple indications of relative position. 
The upper part of the earth, as we shall see, stands above the 
lower waters ; all the mass, therefore, of the earth, including 
these waters, is suspended in space, and consequently rests 
upon nothing. 

17. The terrestrial mass, which supports the continents 
and seas in its upper part, extends in depth to the lowest part 
of the universe : to this extension, as has been already said, 
the Jews gave the name of iehom, implying depth. We may 
conveniently render this by abyss (or deep), ' Thy judgements 
are a great abyss/ says the author of Psalm xxxvi to the 
Lord, meaning to indicate inscrutable profundity. 'Thou 

1 Dent, xxviii. 64; Job xxviii. 24, xxxvii. 3; Jer. x. 13; Ps. ii. 8, 
lxxii. 8, and many other passages mention the limits of the earth. The 
limits of the sea are alluded to in Job xxvi. 10, xxxviii. 8-1 1 ; Prov. 
viii. 29 ; Jer. v. 22. 

a Out of many passages the following may be cited : 1 Sam. ii. 8 ; 
2 Sam. xxii. 16 ; Job ix. 6 ; 1 Chron. xvi. 30 ; Job xxxviii. 4., 6 ; Ps. 
xviii. 15, lxxv. 3, xciii. 1, xcvi. 10, civ. 5 ; Jer. xxxi. 37 ; Prov. viii. 29. 

3 The earthquake is mentioned in 1 Kings xix. 11-12; Job ix. 6: 
Isa.xxix.6 ; Ezek. xxxviii. 19 ; Amps i. 1 ; Zech. xiv. 5 ; and elsewhere. 

28 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

hast brought me again from the abysses of the earth/ says 
the author of Psalm lxxi to the Lord : that is to say, from 
the depth of misery. In Psalm cxxxv the abyss is counted 
as part of the universe : ' Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that 
did He in heaven, in earth, in the sea, and in all the abysses ; ' 
where the enumeration begins with the highest places 
(heaven), and descends, step by step, to the lowest 1 . But 
more often the abyss is connected with the idea of the 
subterranean waters. 'He hath gathered the waters of the 
sea in one mass, and laid up the abysses in storehouses' 
(Ps. xxxiii. 7) ; here the abysses are represented as an immense 
mass of water. Hence proceed the ' springs of the sea 2 / or 
the 'fountains of the great abyss 3 / which suggest to us 
a subterranean hollow full of water, much greater than all 
the others, whence the waters of the flood burst forth. From 
this mass of abysmal water also proceed springs and the 
sources of rivers, which are several times mentioned as 
among the greatest blessings of a country*. This is 
picturesquely expressed in Psalm xviii : ' Then appeared the 
springs of waters, and the foundations of the earth were laid 
bare.' In Proverbs also (viii. 24), the abysses come into 
relation with springs, where Wisdom is said to have been 
born, 'when the abysses did not yet exist, nor fountains 
bubbling with water/ 

18. So then, the Jews thought of an immense mass of 
subterranean waters, which formed, together with the waters 
of seas and lakes, the system of the ' lower waters/ so called 
to distinguish them from the ' upper waters/ which were sup- 

1 The abysses are sometimes connected with the bottom of the sea 
(Job xxxviii. 16) ; or are simply contrasted as depth with the height of 
heaven (Ps. cvii. 26). 

9 Job xxxviii. 16. 3 Gen. vii. 11, viii. 2. 

4 See the blessing of Jacob (Gen. xlix. 25), the blessing of Moses 
(Dent, xxxiii. 13), the description of the promised land (Deut. viii. 7) 
and of the land of Assyria (Ezek. xxxi. 4). 

The Firmament, Earth, Abysses 29 

posed (as will appear later) to stand above the firmament. 
These subterranean waters partly rose by means of channels 
and caverns to the dry surface of the earth, producing springs 
and rivers, partly penetrated to the basin of the seas and 
lakes, maintaining their level by the aid of apertures and 
channels at the bottom ; so we must understand the expres- 
sions, ' springs of the sea/ and { fountains of the great abyss/ 
This arrangement, by making a single mass of the superficial 
and subterranean waters, allowed the Jews to explain how 
the sea does not overflow with the ceaseless influx of the 
rivers, and how springs come to be perennial, thus affording 
a simple reason, ingenious for its time, of the circulation of 
waters and springs to the sea and of the sea to springs 1 . 
All the Biblical writers appear to be ignorant of the origin 
of springs from the condensation of the atmospheric waters. 
That the lower waters should overcome the laws of natural 
gravity, and rise again from subterranean depths to the 

1 This problem is propounded in so many words by Ecclesiastes i. 7 : 
1 All the rivers run into the sea, and the sea is not full ; unto the place 
whence they come, thither they return again.' Antonio Stoppani 
(Cosmogonia Mosaica, Cogliati, Milan, 1 887, pp. 31 2-13) takes advantage 
of this passage to assert that the Jews (Stoppani says Solomon, believing 
him to be the author of Ecclesiastes) knew of the atmospheric circulation 
of waters, as it is now taught in all works on meteorology and physics. 
With all due respect to this learned and eloquent writer, I must say that 
I cannot see the necessity for such a conclusion. Ecclesiastes merely 
dwells on the fact that the sea is not increased by the influx of the 
rivers : hence he concludes that the waters of rivers must return from the 
sea to their sources. But he gives no clear indication whether this 
return takes place by the atmosphere or under the earth. That 
this latter supposition was in the minds of the Biblical writers, results 
from the sum total of their cosmological ideas, as they are expounded 
above. As a matter of fact, Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas 
Aquinas still thought that all the rivers, or at any rate the principal 
ones, took their origin immediately from the sea, making a path thence 
under the earth through its pores : see on this subject, Stoppani, oj>. cit. 

P- 347- 

30 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

surface, was considered as a result of the omnipotence of 
God, who ' calls the waters of the sea and spreads them over 
the surface of the earth V 

19. The abyss is not infinite, just as the heaven is not 
infinite : the abyss embraces the lower part of the universe, 
and it has its limits like the heaven, earth, and sea 2 . Its depth 
is in the same class of measureless size as the height of the 
heaven and the breadth of the earth : it cannot be measured 
by men 3 . 

In the lowest part of the abysses is Sheol, the place where 
those dwell who have passed to the state of rephaim or 
1 shades V This is the place lower than any other 6 , which is 
described in the Book of Job (x. 21-2) as the land where 
the shadow of death reigns, where the shadows are scarcely 
broken by any glimmers of twilight, where there is no order, 
and whence there is no return — in short, as something very 
like the Hades and Avernus of the Greek and Latin classics, 
and the Aralu of the Babylonians. No Hebrew Dante has 
described this place ; yet we already find in Ezekiel 8 a part of 

1 Amos v. 8. The analogy between these abysmal waters and the 
subterranean ocean (aj>su) of the Babylonians, is evident. See the 
description of the latter in Jensen, Kostnologie der Babylonicr, pp. 243-53. 

2 This is required by the fact that allusions occur in the Old 
Testament to the circuit of the sun, moon, and stars : this circuit would 
be an impossibility if the earth were supposed to be prolonged to 
infinity. Xenophanes, the Greek philosopher who admitted this pro- 
longation, was obliged to suppose that the stars were luminous meteors, 
lighted every morning and extinguished every evening. On the other 
hand, the Bible considers the sun and all the stars as bodies of permanent 
identity and uninterrupted existence. 

3 Ecclus. i. 3 (LXX), i. 2 (Vulg.). 

4 Ps. lxxxviii. 10; Prov. ii. 18; Isa. xxvi. 14. 
• Deut. xxxii. 22 ; Job xi. 8. 

8 Ezek. xxvi. 19-20, xxxi. 14-18, xxxii. 18-32. The word ' pit ' (Mr) 
often serves in the Bible to indicate the place of burial : sometimes also 
it is used for Sheol as a whole. Commentators have therefore usually 
interpreted it in these senses even when translating the passages cited 

The Firmament \ Earth, Abysses 31 

Sheol distinguished as deeper, called the ' pit ' or ' the lowest 
parts of the earth/ where the uncircumcised descend and 
those who have fallen by the sword, causing terror in the 
land of the living. In course of time this distinction came 
to be more definite : the upper part of Sheol, destined for 
the just, was called 'Abraham's bosom,' and the lower 
part became Gehenna, where sinners were tormented in 
flames *. 

20. Over the surface of the great circle occupied by the 
earth and the seas rises the system of the heavens, the king- 
dom of light, corresponding to the abyss and the kingdom 
of darkness ; first, proceeding upwards, is the heaven called 
by the special name rdqia', which the LXX render by (rrepcafui , 
the Vulgate by firmamentum, whence the word firmament 
has come into use among ourselves also 2 . 

Sometimes it is further described as reqia 1 hasshamayim, 
the firmament of the heavens 3 . It is a vault of great solidity, 
compared in Job (xxxvii. 18) to a metal mirror ; a transparent 
vault allowing the light of the stars, which are placed higher, 

from Ezekiel. But attentive reading will show that the reference is to 
a place specially destined for the uncircumcised and for men of blood. 

1 Luke xvi. 22-8, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Men- 
tion is there made (verse 26) of the great leap which must be made to 
descend from Abraham's bosom to Gehenna. 

a The original meaning of raqia' is not quite clear. Gesenius ( Thes, 
p. 131 2) translates it by expansum, idque firmum, deriving it from the 
root rdqcC (percussit, tutudit, iundendo expandit). From this meaning 
there is derived a second, which the same root raqd takes in the 
Syriac language : this may be expressed by firmavit, stabilivit. The 
LXX and Vulgate have certainly followed this view of the meaning. In 
Ezekiel rdqicC is used to mean a floor or pavement suspended on high 
(i. 22-6, x. 1). See the able and learned discussion by Stoppani 
{pp. at. pp. 267-81), where the meaning firmament appears to be clearly 
established in opposition to the interpretation extension which several 
modern commentators adopt. 

8 Gen. i. 14, 15, 17, 20. RaqicC alone in Gen. i. 6, 7, 8 ; Ps. xix. 1 ; 
Dan. xii. 3. In Ecclus. xliii. 8, read crtptoj/M, 

32 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

to pass through. Its main duty is to support 'the upper 
waters/ holding them suspended on high above the earth, 
and separated from ' the lower waters ' of the continents, seas, 
and abysses : as we are told in the noble opening of Genesis 
(i. 7). So it is said in Psalm civ. 3 that God * has covered the 
upper part of the heaven with water,' and in Psalm cxlviii. 4 
1 the waters that are above the heaven ' are exhorted to praise 
God 1 . 

21. By means of flood-gates or portcullises (arubboth) re- 
gulated by the hand of Yahwe 2 , the upper waters come to be 
distributed over the earth in the form of rain, subject to rules 
as to time and place 8 . All are familiar with the account of 
the flood, in which, to inundate the earth, not only ' all foun- 
tains of the great abyss/ but also ■ the flood-gates of heaven/ 
are opened 4 . This curious conception, which has evidently 
been produced by the desire to explain the phenomenon of 
rain, is found repeated in Genesis, the Books of Kings, the 
Psalms, and the Prophets : it does not seem possible to 
understand it in a metaphorical sense and adapt it to our 
ideas B ; it is, in fact, in the closest connexion with the rest 
of the conception of the upper waters. Considering the 
spherical and convex shape of the firmament, the upper 
waters could not remain above without a second wall to hold 
them in at the sides and the top. So a second vault above 
the vault of the firmament closes in, together with the firma- 

1 Repeated in the Song of the Three Children : Dan. iii. 60 (Vnlg.). 
According to Jensen {op, cit. pp. 254, 344), the conception of the 
upper waters is also found in the Babylonian cosmology. 

* Gen. vii. 11, viii. 2 ; 2 Kings vii. 19 ; Ps. lxxviii. 3; Isa. xxiv. 18 ; 
Mai. iii. 10. 

3 Jer. v. 24; Job xxviii. 26; Dent, xxviii. 12 ; Lev. xxvi. 3. Two 
annual rains are distinguished in the Old Testament : the 'former* or 
autumnal rain (October to December), and the 'latter* or spring rain 
(March to April). See Deut. xi. 14 ; Jer. v. 24 ; Hos. vi. 3. 

* Gen. vii. 11, viii. 2. 

8 As Gesenius would wish to do {Thes. p. 131 2). 

The Firmament \ Earth , Abysses 33 

rnent, a space where are the storehouses (ofsaroth, Oqaavpol, 
thesauri) of rain, hail, and snow \ They are the ministers 
either of the goodness or of the wrath of the Almighty 2 , and 
are kept full by His hand, while the water that falls * returns 
not on high, but changes into seeds and fruits ' for the use of 
animals and men s . In the lower zone of this space, on the 
level of the lands and seas and round about them, are the 
* storehouses of the winds V which open from one side or the 
other in all the directions of the horizon, and so give rise to 
the rush of wind. 

22. The ancient Jews did not mark more than four direc- 
tions in their horizon, and did not distinguish more than four 
winds. The ' four winds of heaven ' are alluded to in many 
passages of the Old Testament 5 , so much so that the ex- 
pression ended by passing into common use among ourselves 
also. The four directions corresponded, as would naturally 
be expected, to our cardinal points. For each of them the 
Jewish writers used three different systems of names, each 
resting on a separate principle. 

In the first system the observer is supposed to be placed 
facing east, and the directions were defined in relation to him 
— in front, behind, to his right, to his left. Hence the follow- 
ing terms : — 

E., qedem, in front. 

W., ahor y or ahdron, behind. 

N., semoly the left, i.e. that which is on his left. 

S^yaMin, or teman, the right, i. e. that which is on his right. 

This method of distinguishing the parts of the horizon 
was also used by the Indians and partially by the Arabs. 

1 Job xxxviii. 22. a Job xxxvii. 6, 11 ; xxxviii. 22, 23, 25-7. 

3 Isa. lv. 10, This passage expressly excludes any idea of an atmo- 
spheric circulation of waters : see above, note on page 29. 
*. Jer. x. 13, li. 16; Ps. cxxxv. 7. 
6 Jer. xlix. 36 ; Ezek. xxxvii. 9 ; Zech. vi. 5 ; Dan. viii. 8. 

sch. D 

34 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

From this use, which makes the east into the fundamental 
direction, is derived in our western languages the expression 
1 to orientate oneself/ 

A second system of names was derived from the appear- 
ances associated with the sun's daily motion : — 

E. mizrah, the rising of the sun, east. 

W. mebd hasshemesh, the setting of the sun, west. 

N. Isafon, obscure or dark place. 

S. darom, bright or illuminated place. 

A third system, which might be called topographical, 
indicated directions by means of local circumstances corre- 
sponding to them. According to this principle, the south 
was very often described by the name negeb (derived from 
the disused root nagab = Latin exsiccatus fuit\ because the 
region south of Palestine was so called, being a completely 
arid desert. No less frequently we find the west described 
by the name miyyam (from the sea) or yammah (towards the 
sea); for the sea (yam) formed the western boundary of 
Palestine, and for all the Jews without exception was to be 
found on the western side. Analogous descriptions for the 
north and east do not appear to have been in use l . 

The four winds are always indicated by the name of the 
direction from which they blow, as with us. The Jews 
attributed special qualities to each wind. The east wind 
brought them scorching heat and locusts 2 ; the south 

1 These three ways of indicating direction are found used pro- 
miscuously by the Biblical writers, without any obvious rule of 
preference. Thus, in Genesis (xiii. 14) God says to Abraham at his 
calling : ' Lift up thine eyes and look from the place where thou 
standest, towards tsafon, towards negeb, towards qedem, and towards 
yam ' : where terms belonging to all three systems are used together. 
It even happens sometimes that the same direction is indicated by two 
of its names in combination. Thus, in Exodus (ch, xxvii), the south is 
called negeb-teman and the east qedem-mizrah. 

a Gen. xli. 6, xlii. 23; Exod. x. 13; Hos. xiii. 15; Ezek. xvii. 10, 
atix. 12. 

The Firmament, Earth, Abysses 35 

wind storms and warmth 1 ; with the west wind came clouds 
and rain 2 ; with the north wind cold and calm s . 

23. As will be seen, this conception of the firmament 
as distributing winds, rain, snow, and hail, takes away from 
the clouds their principal function, that of bringing rain. 
These mount up from the extremity of the earth 4 and spread 
over the sky : in them Yahwe places his bow, the rainbow 8 . 

This crude cosmography is not, however, that of all the 
Biblical writers : it is not that, for example, of the learned 
and gifted thinker who wrote the Book of Job. In his 
opinion it is the clouds that contain the rain and distribute 
it over the earth 6 . This conception removes the part taken 
by the firmament in the distribution of rains, and the hypo- 
thesis of the upper waters is no longer necessary. When the 
Almighty wishes it to rain, He 'binds the waters in His 
clouds/ which are charged with spreading them wherever 
it is ordained. Yet we still hear in Job of ' the storehouses 
of snow and hail, made ready for the day of enmity and 
battle' (xxxviii. 22, 23), where these products are clearly 
distinguished from rain and thunder, which are mentioned 
a little lower down (xxxviii. 25-8). Accordingly, it is 
possible that the author reserved the firmament for snow 
and hail; but it must be confessed that he makes no 
mention of the firmament, though opportunities for naming 
it were not wanting. 

The evident connexion, however, of clouds with rain 
could not escape the notice of observers, however superficial, 

1 Job xxxvii. 9, 17 ; Isa. xxi. 1 ; Zech. ix. 14; Luke xii. 55, 
3 1 Kings xviii. 44 ; Luke xii. 54. 

3 Job xxxvii. 9 ; Prov. xxv. 23 ; Ecclus. xliii. 22. 

4 Ps. cxxxv. 7 ; Jer. x. 13, li. 16. 

5 Gen. ix. 13, 14, 16 ; Ezek. i. 28. 

6 Job xxvi. 8 : ' He bindeth up the waters in His clouds ' ; and lower 
down (xxxvi. 27, 28) : ' The rain falls from the clouds and is diffused 
over men/ 

D 2 

36 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

and we find some traces of it. The author of Ecclesiastes 
says (xi. 3): 'When the clouds are full, they spread rain 
over the earth/ In the second Book of Samuel (xxii. 12), 
God is described as gathering round about Him 'masses 
of water and thick clouds/ where the juxtaposition accen- 
tuates a connexion between the two things \ In the Book 
of Judges (v. 4), it is said that ' the heavens and the clouds 
drop water/ And in Genesis (ii. 6), a cloud is made to 
intervene, to moisten the dust, thus rendering possible the 
clay for the formation of Adam's body. The connexion of 
clouds with dew is clearly indicated in Isaiah 2 . 

24. It must be recognized in general that it is no easy 
matter to present an exhaustive account of what the Jewish 
writers say with regard to the cause and manner of operation 
of meteorological phenomena. As we are dealing with 
opinions that are derived from the imagination rather than 
from the critical study of the facts, a certain difference 
between one author and another is to be expected. It 
accordingly becomes difficult to distinguish or reconcile 

1 This connexion would be still more clearly marked in the Vulgate 
rendering: cribrans aquas de nubibus coelorum. But no other inter- 
preter comes near this way of understanding it ; not even the LXX. 

2 Isa. xviii. 4. The Jews had noticed the spontaneous dissolution of 
clouds, especially of morning clouds : see Job vii. 9 ; Hos. vi. 4. But 
I have found nothing to indicate any knowledge of the formation of 
clouds by condensation of the atmospheric vapours. One might refer 
to this fact a passage in the Vulgate (Job xxxvii. 21) : aer cogetur in 
nubes. But it is probable that the translator only wished to suggest 
the clouding of the air as a mere fact of observation, perhaps following 
the example of Symmachus, who translates cvvvcQrjact rbv alOipa. 
There seems already to have been uncertainty as to the reading of 
this passage in the time of the earliest interpreters. In fact, the LXX 
have SxTtitp rb vap' ainov tirl vcQwv, where the air is not even named. 
The equivalent of the Massoretic text in Latin would be ventus transiit 
et illud (coelum) purificavit, nearly the opposite of the sense adopted 
by Symmachus and the Vulgate. Recent commeutators follow the 
Massoretic reading more or less closely. 

The Firmament ; Earth, Abysses 37 

such opinions, represented for the most part by a few phrases 
whose meaning is often not clearly determined, to say 
nothing of the possibility that we ought to interpret these 
words, not strictly and literally, but rather in a metaphorical 
sense, or as similes. . 

25. We have now exhausted that part of Jewish 
cosmography which relates to the earth, the abysses, and the 
firmament. All these taken together must be thought of 
as forming a cosmic system or body, fashioned in a shape 
which cannot be exactly and completely determined by the 
aid of the Biblical data. Yet it may be admitted as very 
probable that these writers, going by what appearances 
suggested, would suppose the whole to be symmetrically 
arranged round a vertical line passing through Jerusalem. 
We may further admit that, as the heaven forms with the 
air an upper part, of a round shape, like a vault or circular 
cupola, as it appears to our eyes, so too the abysses might be 
symmetrically pictured as included within a surface of equal 
shape and size, of corresponding convexity, at the bottom. 
Thus the heaven with the air, on the one side, the abysses 
with Sheol and the lowest parts of the earth, on the other, 
would come to form two equal halves, separated by the plane 
containing the surface of the earth and seas, and symmetri- 
cally placed in relation to that plane 1 . Such a cosmic system 
or body might then perhaps have a spherical shape. Or 
others might suppose, with some reason, that the whole 
figure formed a spheroid depressed in the vertical direction, 
the conception being thus accommodated to the apparent shape 
of the firmament, which, as any one can see, is not properly 
a half sphere but rather the half of a spheroid much more 
extended in a horizontal than in a vertical direction. In 
the annexed figure, which is designed to render the pre- 

1 An allusion to this symmetrical arrangement might perhaps be 
found in Job xi. 8 and Psalm cxxxix. 8. 

38 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

ceding account more clear and aid the reader's imagination, 
I have drawn the universe as a spheroid depressed in this 
way. By comparing it with the Biblical data, the reader 
will easily be able to judge how much foundation of fact 
there is in it, and how much hypothesis \ 

1 In Figure 1 : ABC = the upper heaven ; ADC = the curve of the 
abyss ; AEC = the plane of the earth and seas ; SRS = various parts of 
the sea ; EEE = various parts of the earth ; GHG = the profile of the 
firmament or lower heaven ; KK = the storehouses of the winds ; 
LL =» the storehouses of the upper waters, of snow, and of hail ; 
M = the space occupied by the air, within which the clouds move ; 
NN =*» the waters of the great abyss ; xxx = the fountains of the great 
abyss ; PP = Sheol or limbo ; Q = the lower part of the same, the 
inferno properly so called. 



Fig. 1. Heaven, the earth, and the abysses, according to the writers of the Old 



The sun and the moon. — Their course stopped by Joshua and others. 
— Allusions to a total eclipse, probably that of 831 B. c. — 
The heaven of stars. — The host of heaven. — The planets : 
Venus and Saturn. — Comets and bolides. — Fall of meteorites. — 

26. Round about the cosmic body or system which we 
have described above, composed of the firmament and of 
the earth with the abysses, and representing the central and 
immovable part of the universe, are gathered the stars, and, 
primarily, the sun and moon, placed, as it seems, at not very 
different distances from the earth \ The sun {shemesh) is the 
most magnificent work of the Almighty : ' he cometh forth as 
a bridegroom from his nuptial chamber, he rejoiceth as a 
hero in his victorious course : he ariseth from one end of the 
heaven, and his circuit reacheth to the other end thereof; 
nothing is taken away from his heat' (Ps. xix. 5-7). His 
course continues day and night: 'the sun riseth, the sun 
goeth down, and anew he hasteneth to the place where he 
must arise' (Eccles. i. 5). Here the subterranean course 
of the sun is clearly indicated, from the point of setting to that 
of his next rising. As regards the moon (called in Hebrew 

1 There cannot be any doubt that the sun and moon were placed 
above the firmament and the upper waters. When therefore Genesis 
(i. 14, 15, 17) says that God has placed the lights { in the firmament of 
heaven/ we must understand that it is the appearance rather than the 
reality that the writer wishes to describe. In fact, for the spectator 
these lights do project on the vault of the firmament. 

40 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

yareah, or poetically lebanah, the white one), her course could 
not be supposed to be very different from that of the sun. 
Moon and sun are continually found associated as two great 
lights, destined, the one to rule the day, the other the night, 
intended to fix days, months, and years, and also to serve for 
the miraculous manifestations portending remarkable events 
to come 1 . Although their duty of regulating time requires 
a certain regularity of movements and periods, it is not con- 
sidered impossible that their course should be arrested or 
even turned back at the command of Joshua and other men 
loved by Yahwe. An ancient Jewish poet, singing of 
Joshua's victory over the Amorites, attributes to that comman- 
der the boast of having arrested the sun and moon 2 ; and 
certainly one could not conceive a more effective flight of 
fancy, or one more fitted for the heights of an heroic 
and lyrical composition. But as has happened in other 
ancient nations, so among the Jews also the material of 
heroic songs passed not infrequently into history, and, as 
history, this episode in the wars of Israel is even now re- 

1 Gen. i. 14. Such would seem to be the meaning of the word 
othoth (LXX th <TT)ftua ; Vulg. in signa). Further discussion of the 
various possible interpretations is given in Gesenius, Thes. p. 40. 
Among the signs to which Genesis alludes, eclipses are certainly to be 
included : especially total eclipses, on which see below, §§27, 28. 

2 Jos. x. 12, 13 : 'Then Joshua spake in the presence of Israel : Sun, 
stand thou still above Gibeon, and thou moon, in the valley of Aijalon ! 
And the sun stood still and the moon stayed until the people had 
avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is this not written in the 
Book of the Upright ? And the sun stood still in the midst of heaven 
and hasted not to go down for the space of about a whole day. And 
there was no day like that, before it or after it.' The Book of the 
Upright or the Just {sepher hayyashar) seems to have been a collection 
of songs connected with the heroic deeds and the great men of Israel : 
as it contained songs by David, its compilation does not date from 
before his time. The words placed in Joshua's mouth have in the 
Hebrew a rhythm and poetical colouring, and are to be regarded as 
a verbal quotation from the Book of the Just. 

The Stars 41 

garded by many. According to the narrative in the historical 
portion of the book bearing the name of Isaiah, that prophet 
is said not only to have stopped the sun, but to have turned 
it back 1 . So, too, of Elimelech, husband of Naomi, an 
obscure tradition relates that he stopped the sun ; and accord- 
ing to the Vulgate of i Chronicles iv. 22, a descendant of 
Judah, son of Jacob, is said to have accomplished a like feat 3 . 
27. Eclipses of the sun and of the moon were not unknown 
to the Jews. They did not understand their reason, and 
were wont to regard them as signs announcing Divine 
chastisements. Nor did the prophets fail to confirm this 
opinion. In Joel the Lord says 3 : c I will shew wonders in 
heaven and earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke : the 
sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood.' 
Similarly, Amos (viii. 9): 'And it shall come to pass in 
that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go 
down at noon, and I will spread darkness over the earth in 
the clear day/ These passages seem to hint at events 
actually witnessed. Total eclipses of the moon were always 
sufficiently common at every time and place: c the moon 
turned into blood' may be confidently referred to the livid 
reddish colour which is often noticed in these eclipses. As 
regards total eclipses of the sun, the inhabitants of Palestine 
and of the neighbouring regions would have had several 
opportunities to witness them in the times of Joel and Amos. 
In the elaborate catalogues of eclipses published by Oppolzer 
and by Ginzel 4 , we find registered as visible in those parts 

1 On this event see §§ 81, 82. 

3 For these two less known cases see Martini's comment on 1 Chron. 
iv. 22. 

3 Joel iii. 3, 4 (Hebrew) or ii. 30, 31 (English versions). 

* Oppolzer, Caiion der Finsternisse (Memoirs of the Viennese 
Imperial Academy of the Sciences: vol. Iii). Ginzel, Specieller Canon 
der Sonnen- und Mondjinsternisse fur die Lander des klassischen 
AlterthuniS) von 900 vor Chr. bis 600 nach Chr, (Berlin, 1899). 

42 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

total solar eclipses under the dates, August 15, 831 b.c. ; 
April 2, 824 b.c; and June 15, 763 b.c. 1 . 

28. Other prophets, later than Joel and Amos, seem to 
allude to total eclipses of sun and moon. Micah (iii. 6) : 
4 The sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day 
shall be dark round about them/ Isaiah (xiii. 10): ' The 
sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall 
not shine with her light. 1 So far as the sun is concerned, 
probably these are reminiscences taken from earlier prophets; 

1 According to the maps of eclipses appended to the work of Ginzel 
cited above, the zone of totality of the eclipse of August 15, 831 B.C., 
passed near Memphis, crossed Arabia Petraea, and fell within the southern 
boundaries of Palestine. The moment of greatest darkness for southern 
Judaea and Arabia Petraea would have been almost exactly at midday : 
just as the Lord says through the mouth of Amos, ' I will make the sun 
go down at midday/ Ginzel's maps show a smaller probability for the 
eclipse of 824 B.C., and a still smaller for that of 763 B.C. : first, because 
these eclipses were not total within the limits of Palestine and the zone 
of totality kept at some distance from those limits ; and also because 
the greatest darkness occasioned by them in those regions would not 
have taken place at midday, but, in 824 B.C., two hours before midday, 
and in 763 B.C., three hours after midday. As to the date of Amos, we 
know from himself that his vision took place while Uzziah (also called 
Azariah) was reigning in the kingdom of Judah, and Jeroboam II 
simultaneously reigning over Israel. According to Oppert's calculations 
(Proc. of Soc. Bibl. Arch. 1898, xx, pp. 45, 46) these two kings reigned 
contemporaneously from 811 to 773 B.C. So Amos, and Joel too (who 
is supposed to have been rather earlier than Amos), would have been 
veiy well able to be spectators either of the eclipse of 831 or of that of 
824, or of both. It should be mentioned, however, that Oppert's 
chronology, founded in essentials on the data of the Books of Kings, 
comes into conflict with the Assyrian monuments which are contemporary 
with the events ; according to the monuments, these two reigns should 
be brought about 25 or 30 years nearer our own time, so that the 
interval within which the prophecy of Amos falls comes to be put 
roughly between 780 and 750 B.C. The difference is not such as 
essentially to change the position of the question. Amos could well 
have remembered in old age the extraordinary spectacle of a total eclipse 
seen by him in early youth. For Joel, if he is a little earlier than Amos, 
the difficulty is still less. 

The Stars 43 

for, from 763 down to the destruction of the first Temple 
(586 b.c), no total eclipse of the sun was visible in 
Palestine or its immediate surroundings. In the Book of 
Job also (iii. 5) mention is made of a ' darkening of the 
day/ which may well be understood of a total solar 

29. Above the course of the sun and the moon, as far 
as the extreme limit of visible things, there extends the 
heaven of the stars, sometimes confused with the firmament. 
But while the firmament is thought of as solid and rigid like 
a vault, the heaven of the stars is introduced to us as some- 
thing thin and flexible, like a cloth or curtain. In several 
places in the prophets 1 God is said to have ' stretched out the 
heaven/ an expression which it would not seem possible to use 
of a solid vault. In Ps. civ. 2 ' God stretcheth out the heaven 
like a curtain 2 '; and elsewhere, * He stretcheth out the heaven 
like a veil, and spreadeth it out like a tent to dwell in 3 .' 
This idea that the heaven, studded with stars, is something 
subtile and flexible, bearing the stars fastened on after the 

1 Isa. xliv. 34, xlv. 12, li. 13 ; Jer. x. 13 ; Zech. xii. 1. 

3 Interpreters are not agreed as to the true sense of yerCah, which is 
translated by ' curtain ' above. The LXX have Sippw, with which the 
Vulgate is in accord, reading pellem. Luther Teppich [cloth], Diodati cor- 
tina [curtain], Philippson Zeltteppich [tent-cloth], Reuss Zelidecke [tent- 
covering : the usual meaning, e.g. Jer. x. 30]. But all have in common 
the idea of something thin and flexible, designed to serve as a covering. 

8 Isa. xl. 22. Here too what is expressed by 'veil* is represented 
in the Hebrew by a word of indeterminate sense, doq, including the idea 
of thinness and subtilty Gesenius (Thes. p. 348). So the Vulgate goes 
straight to the extreme limit, saying, qui extendit velut nihilum coelos ; 
while Luther contents himself with ' a thin skin,' ein diinnes FelU 
Diodati has come una tela [like a web], Philippson ein Schleier [a veil], 
Reuss ein Teppich [a carpet]. The authority of the LXX would appear 
to stand alone, in speaking of a vault : 6 ffr^aas d>s KayApav rbv ovpcw6v. 
But the word tcafiapa can be used of any kind of cover, even of the 
lightest kind and made of skins or silk. There is an example in 
Herodotus i. 199, where it stands for the cover of a closed car. 

44 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

fashion of embroidery, is expressed in the most lively way 
by the first Isaiah, who predicts as a sign of the divine 
wrath 1 that • all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the 
heavens shall be rolled up like a book : and all their host shall 
sink down, as falleth the leaf of the vine or of a fig-tree.' 

30. In the song of Deborah, one of the most ancient 
monuments of Hebrew literature that have reached us, there 
is an obvious allusion to the daily motion of the stars 
(kokabtm). During the fight at the brook Kishon ' the stars 
fought from heaven, they fought from their orbits against 
SiseraV In the Book of Wisdom (vii. 19), Solomon is 
made to boast of knowing, amongst many other things, 
ivtavT&v kvkKovs koi aortpaiu de<rcis f annorum cursus et slellarum 
dispositiones. In these last two words we may perhaps 
recognize an allusion to the constellations; but, if the late 
date of the book be granted, it would not seem improbable 
that the astronomical conception of the prevision of celestial 
movements is here seen in process of arising, or, it may be, 
even the astrological view of the reciprocal configurations 
of the seven planets. However this ought to be understood, 
the power of knowing all the stars, of numbering them, and 
distinguishing them by their names, is reserved to God alone, 
who ' counteth the number of the stars, and calleth them all 
by their names ' (Ps. cxlvii. 4) s . God alone has full know- 

1 Isa. xxxiv. 4. It is unnecessary to remark that the expression ' to 
be rolled up like a book ' refers to the older form of books, that of a roll 
(Latin volumen\ rather than to the shape of modern books, to which 
the Vulgate rendering complicabuntur alludes. The meaning of the 
phrase ' host of heaven ' will be discussed a little lower down. 

a J U( lg* v * 20 " The WOI "d mesillolh, rendered above by orbits , 
properly means roads marked by being raised above the surrounding 
ground (Latin via aggesta), and is to be understood of the ways marked 
in tbe sky for the daily course of each star, the celestial parallels as we 
should call them. 

3 See also Isa. ad. 26 ; Jer. xxxiii. 22 ; Job ix. 7 ; Wisdom vii. 19. 

The Stars 45 

ledge of the laws which govern the heaven, and the power of 
regulating the action which they exercise over the earth 
(Job xxxviii. 33). 

31. If we examine the astronomical knowledge of primitive 
peoples, we find that certain groups of stars, more clearly 
defined and more conspicuous than the rest, were more or 
less known by all. The Great Bear has been marked and 
named not only by the tribes inhabiting the arctic regions of 
the earth, but also, so far as is known, by all the peoples 
of the northern temperate zone. The splendid constellation 
of Orion with its strikingly characteristic shape, and the 
group of the Pleiades, crowded densely in such a small 
space, are found in the cosmography of all the peoples of 
the torrid zone and of the temperate zones of both hemi- 
spheres. Accordingly, we find the Great Bear, Orion, and 
the Pleiades known among the Jews as well as elsewhere, 
and a special name assigned to each, which occurs more 
than once in the Old Testament. It must, however, be 
confessed that the nomenclature of these groups and, more 
generally, whatever concerns the uranography of the 
Hebrews, still causes much perplexity as regards its 
interpretation. The assured facts are few; the more or 
less uncertain conjectures are many. Numerous astro- 
nomical and philological discussions have taken place, so 
that there is a good deal to say on the subject. I have 
therefore thought it advisable to treat it separately and to 
devote the whole of the following chapter to it. 

32. The host 0/ heaven. There occurs not infrequently in 
the Old Testament the expression tseba hasshamqyim, which 
the LXX translate by Swa/mr rod ovpavov and elsewhere by 
arparta rod ovpavov, the Vulgate by militia or exercitus coeli. 
It is not always employed in the same sense. Sometimes 
it means simply that which forms the equipment of heaven, 
and, hence, all the stars in general. So in Genesis (ii. 1), 

46 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

where it is said that ■ the heaven and the earth were finished 
and all their tsabal we must understand ' all their equipment ' ; 
whence the LXX have appropriately rendered tsaba by 
Kotrpos, and the Vulgate by ornatus. In other places it is 
natural to take tseba hasshamayim as expressing in figurative 
language the whole multitude of stars, which may well be 
compared to an army or host; so in several places of 
Isaiah (xl. 26; xxxiv. 4; xlv. 12). But often especially in 
writers later than Isaiah \ by the host of heaven we have to 
understand a particular class of stars to which worship was, 
during a certain period, paid among the Jews. 

33. To arrive at a definition of the stars which were 
included under the host of heaven in this last sense, let us 
first observe that the allusions only begin in connexion with 
the last kings of Israel, who are accused of having aroused 
the wrath of God by worshipping the host of heaven, as well 
as by other forms of impiety 2 . This worship, introduced 
under the influence of the Assyrian invasion, passed in the 
times of Ahaz even into the court of Judah, and was only 
abolished by the pious Josiah 3 . When then, after the destruc- 
tion of Samaria in 721 b. c. and the deportation of its 
inhabitants, colonists from Babylon, Cuthah, and Sepharvaim 
were substituted in their place, the occasion was favourable 
for star-worship to spread much more widely in Palestine. 
This first observation is naturally followed by a second, 
namely, that the host of heaven must have been included 
in that class of stars whose adoration was taught to the Jews 
by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Now the star-worship 
of these two nations comprehended, besides the sun and 
moon, also Venus and the minor planets ; there are in all 
seven stars to whose divinity, as is well known, the great 

1 Deut. iv. 19, xvii. 3 ; 2 Kings xvii. 16, xxi. 3, 5, xxiii. 4, 5 ; Jer. 
viii. 2 ; Zeph. i. 5 ; 2 Chron. xxiii. 3, 5. 

3 2 Kings xvii. 16, 3 2 Kings xxiii. 12. 

The Stars 47 

temple of Borsippa (now a ruin bearing the name Birs 
Nimroud) was consecrated by Nebuchadnezzar. Babylonian 
theology did not, however, confine itself to these. It 
introduced further as objects of superstitious veneration a 
quantity of good and malignant spirits connected with par- 
ticular stars or groups of stars. The battalions composed 
of these spirits or subordinate divinities were called the 
hosts of heaven by the Babylonians in the same way as the 
spirits ruling over the earth were called the hosts of earth, 
Nebuchadnezzar, in one of his inscriptions, exalts the god 
Nebo by saying that he • rules over the hosts of heaven and 
of earth V Similarly, in a hymn to Marduk (the Merodach 
of the Bible), ' the angels of the hosts of heaven and earth ' 
are said to belong to Marduk 2 . 

34. A noteworthy illustration relating to the host of heaven 
is found in i Kings (xxii. 19), repeated verbatim in 2 Chronicles 
(xviii. 18). According to this narrative, when Ahab, king of 
Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, wished to make war 
with united forces against Ramoth-Gilead, a prophet was 
consulted as to the issue of this expedition, who began his 
reply by saying, ' I have seen the Lord sitting on a throne 
and all the host of heaven stood by him on the right and on 
the left.' From what follows it appears that the reference 
is to a kind of council composed of good and malignant 
spirits (ruhoth), who are ministers for executing the works 
of God. The influence of the Babylonian theology on the 
ideas of the narrator is here perfectly manifest, and no 
doubt can remain as to the nature of the beings which were 
supposed to form the host of heaven 3 . They were major or 

1 Schrader, KAT? p. 413. 

a Smith's Chaldean Genesis (ed. Sayce, 1880), p. 81. The word 
'host' is represented in Assyrian by kits' at, which others translate by 
ensemble or totality. 

3 We mnst return later to the ' host of heaven * and to the figurative 
representations of it possessed by the Babylonians: see §§ 72, 73. 

48 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

minor divinities of the Babylonian Pantheon, or else merely 
good or bad spirits ; to each of these were assigned, as home 
or as place of rule, so many stars or groups of stars. 

35. Of the planets considered singly, two only can be 
traced in the Old Testament. One of the great prophets 
of the exile, whose predictions are now found mingled with 
those of Isaiah, when exulting over the imminent ruin of the 
Babylonian Empire, breaks into the following words a : ' How 
art thou fallen from heaven, O Helel, child of the morning, 
and cut down to the ground, O thou trampler of nations 1 ' 
The word helel takes its root from halal, which can be inter- 
preted luxit, splenduit, gloriatus est\ hence it may easily be 
understood of a star ; all the more that, besides the sun and 
moon, only stars can 'fall from heaven/ Accordingly, the star 
'child of the morning' may appropriately be referred to Venus, 
the morning star. The LXX and the Vulgate have under- 
stood it so 2 . As we shall have occasion to show lower 
down, the two appearances of Venus in the morning and 
evening were probably thought of by the Jews as two 
different stars with the name mazzarolh (§§ 71-3). An 
allusion to Venus might conjecturally be recognized in the 
' morning stars ' mentioned in Job (xxxviii. 7) s . 

The Hebrew name of another planet may with great 
probability be recognized in Amos (v. 26). This name is 
read as Kiyun according to the Massoretic pointing, but 
it has now been proved that we ought to point so as to 

1 Isa. xiv. 12. 

a Similarly, in Assyrjo-Babylonian, the planet Venus is sometimes 
designated Mustelil (splendens), from the root elil (splenduit). See 
Schrader, KA T % > p. 388. 

9 In the LXX and the Vulgate other passages occur in which Lucifer 
or Vesper are named, but, when examined in comparison with the 
Hebrew text, they leave an element of doubt. In some of them 
the expressions are to be understood simply of the dawn or the morning 
light. So in Job xi. 1 7 and Ps. ex. 3. 

The Stars 49 

read Kaivan^ as the Syriac translator has done 1 . Now 
Kaivan was the name of Saturn among the ancient Arabs 
and Syrians, and (as E. Schrader has recently proved) among 
the Assyrians too 2 . The words of Amos are these : ' And 
ye shall take Sakkuth your king and Kaivan^ the star of your 
God, images which ye have made for yourselves.' The 
prophet, therefore, reproves the Jews for the worship of the 
planet Saturn. 

This exhausts the number of the planets, any notice of which 
can be found in the Old Testament. For it is not certain that 
the names Gad and Mem, which are found in the book as- 
cribed to Isaiah 3 , represent the planets Jupiter and Venus. 
They seem here to stand for the god of fortune and the goddess 
of chance or fate 4 , and their relationship to the planetary 
deities of Babylonia has not yet been convincingly proved 5 . 

1 On this see Gesenius, Thes. p. 669, where some other interpretations 
are given, including that of St. Jerome, Kiyun = Lncifer. The pointing 
which gives Kaivan has also been relied upon by the LXX, who 
transcribe it as 'Pat<p&v t where the initial P instead of K was probably 
already found by the translators in the Hebrew manuscript which they 
employed. As a matter of fact, in the Phoenician alphabet (used by the 
Jews down to the time of the LXX and still later) the letters caph and 
resh can easily be interchanged. 

2 Schrader, KAT? pp. 442-3. In the sacred books of the Parsees the 
planet Saturn is named K&van. See Bundahish, ch. v. 

8 Isa. lxv. 11. 

* See the discussion of Gesenius, Thes. pp. 264, 798. The LXX 
have ry datfxovi<p, tt) rvxy. The Vulgate, qui ponitis fortunae mensam 
et libatis super earn, combine the two divinities into one. 

6 The author does not wish to imply that the Jews had not some 
more exact knowledge of the planets, especially after they had come into 
contact with the Babylonians. It does not, however, seem that the 
frequent use of the number 7 in the Old Testament is in any way 
connected with the planets, much less the institution of the Jewish week 
(as will be shown in the last chapter of this book). The question 
regarding the application made of the number 7 in the books of post- 
Biblical Hebraism is more complicated, since the influence of foreign 
ideas is frequently evident in them. 

sch. E 

50 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

36. Had the Jews also paid attention to comets? It 
seems probable that they had : when Joel l makes the 
Almighty say that He ' will give blood and fire and pillars 
of smoke/ it is possible that he alludes to comets, though 
such a description might fit some exceptional meteor such 
as we usually call bolides. The * pillars of smoke ' must in 
either case be understood of streaks or trains of luminous 
vapour. The appearance of a bolide is undoubtedly 
described in vivid colours in Genesis (xv. 17), where it is 
said of a sacrifice made by Abram that c when the sun went 
down and darkness had become dense, behold, there appeared 
as it were a smoking brazier and a lamp of fire, which passed 
across, between the parts of the victims/ A reminiscence 
of a bolide might also be found in a description given by 
Ezekiel (i. 4). 

An abundant fall of meteoric stones has seemed to some 
to be alluded to in Joshua (x. n), as having happened on 
the day which saw the sun's course stopped. l And it came 
to pass that, while they (the enemy) fled from before Israel 
and they were by the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord cast 
upon them great stones from heaven unto Azekah, so that 
more of them died beneath the hailstones than by the sword 
of the children of Israel/ The mention of ' hailstones ' 
raises a doubt whether the reference is to meteorites and 
not rather to a hailstorm, which, according to Job (xxxviii. 
22, 23), God has stored up 'for the time of enmity and 
for the days of war and battle/ 

37. What arrangement of all the heavenly bodies ought we 
to believe that the learned among the Jews had made in their 
minds, and what scheme of their respective distances ? We 
have already seen that the firmament^ which kept in the 
upper waters and was designed for the distribution of rain 
and also to serve as storehouse for snow and hail, was con- 

1 Joel iii. 3 (English versions, ii. 30). 

The Stars 51 

sidered by some writers as a complement of the terrestrial 
edifice, a sort of lower, meteorological heaven. Above it 
revolved the upper, astronomical heaven with its daily mo- 
tion: within the latter revolved the sun and moon with 
separate motions of their own. This highest heaven sur- 
rounds the earth and the firmament on every side, and above 
it is the seat of the Almighty. In some places in the Bible 
there occurs the expression sheme hasshamayim (' heaven of 
heavens ') \ which implies an intensification of the idea of 
heaven, such as is found also in the case of other ideas in 
Hebrew idiom 2 . The heaven of heavens is not really different 
from the highest part of heaven, that which encloses the 
whole universe 3 . 

38. It is not impossible that, together with a certain 
notion of astronomy, the Assyrians and Babylonians also 
imported into Palestine the bad seed of astrology. The 
Jews, who in the debased periods of the kingdoms of Israel 
and Judah abandoned themselves to the most senseless and 
savage superstitions, practised divination of every kind 4 , 
consecrated horses to the sun, adored the host of heaven, 
and sacrificed their children in Tophet, could not have 
remained entirely free from astrological superstition, which 

1 Deut. x. 14; 1 Kings viii. 27; Ps. cxlviii. 4 ; 2 Chron. ii. 5, vi. 18; 
Neh. ix. 6. 

3 Thus, dor dorim (generation of generations) means an exceedingly 
long time : hdbel h&balim (vanity of vanities) means the extreme of 

8 It is worthy of note that the ancient Iranians also supposed that two 
heavens existed : one exterior heaven (twdshd), continually in rotation, 
in which the stars are fixed; one interior (dsman), composed of trans- 
parent blue material, which represents the firmament of the Bible. See 
Spiegel, Eranische Alterthumskunde, i. pp. 188-9 > "• P* x 3 J "• P« io 9« 
Neither the three nor the seven heavens of later Judaism and of the 
New Testament are anywhere mentioned in the Old Testament : their 
Babylonian origin may be regarded as certain. 

4 2 Kings xxiii. 5. 

E 2 

52 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

is less absurd and less abominable than so many others. 
Yet these were aberrations of a temporary character, and 
it is no small honour for this nation to have been wise 
enough to see the inanity of this and all other forms of 
divination. The great prophet of the exile 1 sarcastically 
reproaches the Babylonians for having faith in the ' dividers 
of heaven ' (that is, the astrologers), and seeking to read the 
future in the stars; while Jeremiah (x. 2) exclaims: 'Fear 
not the signs of heaven, at which the heathen are dismayed/ 
Subsequent history shows that these warnings had their 
effect. Of what other ancient civilized nation could as much 
be said ? 

1 Isa. xlvii. 13. 


Is. xiii. io 

Job ix. 9 

Job xxxvii. 9 

Job xxxviii. 31 
Job xxxviii. 32 

2 Kings xxiii. 5 




hadre theman 







{their giants) 

[Gen. vi. 4 (R.V.)] 




idderone shitre 
mazzalayya bisetar 
daroma {planet- 
chambers of the south) 

idderon 'ila 
{upper chamber) 

kawwat mezarim 
{window of Mezarim) 



shitre mazzalayya 
{paths of the planets) 

( = Pleiades) 


{their hosts) 


{strong man) 

hedar 'al taimna 



{pouring rain) 

[so too the Arabic 

version of Sa'adya.] 






'ApuTovpos 3 

"Eanepos 2 

IIAeids 1 

rafieia Notov 






Aq. 'npitw 
Sy. darpa 
Th. "Eairepos 

Sy. ra darpa 


■ Ma£a\u9 
(Scholiast, fySin) 

OlSBpcuos- vivTara 

acrrpa t& kvk\ovvto 


Aq. Ma£oi5/> 
Th. dxpar^pia 

Aq. (or Sy. ?) as in 

Sy. t<! aKofmiaOivra 
Th. = LXX 

omnia luminaria 

{Septentrio 3 ) 

( Vesperus*) 

( Vergilias l ) 

interiora Austri 
{Austri ministeriitm) 


( = mezawim : which 
is adopted by Budde 
as the original read- 
ing: see Ps. cxliv. 13) 





splendor earum 
[Hier. ap. Field : 

Hebraeus, qtio ego 
praeceptore usus 
sum, Arcturum 

interpretatus est.] 

Arcturus • 

Orion 3 

Hyades 3 

interiora Austri 





duodecim signa 

" 1 I • ■ •»! / 

sch. To face p. 53. 

Fold out 



Difficulty of the subject. — 'Ash (ox'Ayish), and her children. — Kesil 
and Kesilim. — Kimah. — The chambers of the south. — Mezarim. — 
The serpent ? — Rahab. 

39. The investigation of Jewish uranography has to be 
undertaken with the aid of only a few notices in the Old 
Testament; and those few are for the most part very 
doubtful. All the available sources are reduced to three 
passages in the Book of Job and one in Amos, where the 
names are given of some of the most striking constella- 
tions in the sky. But the identification of these names with 
constellations now known to us, cannot be built upon any 
safe basis of fact. One might think that the so-called 
1 Seventy,' who translated into Greek the books of the 
Old Testament at a date only two or three centuries later 
than that of Ezra, and possessed the advantage of writing 
when a sufficiently fresh oral tradition was still flourishing, 
must have known the meaning of these names much better 
than the moderns, who are guided only by more or less 
probable hypotheses. But it can easily be shown that this 
meaning had already been lost for them in the larger number 
of cases. Where Amos (v. 8) says of God : ' He made 
Kimah and Kesil,' the Hellenistic translator wrote 6 ttqiwv 
iravra <a\ ptTao-Kevdfav, thus avoiding translating the words 
Kimah and Kesil, of which he probably did not know the 
precise signification. But another of the Seventy, whose 

54 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

task was to translate the Book of Job, understood that 
they related to stars; twice (ix. 9 and xxxviii. 31) he iden- 
tifies Klmah with the Pleiades; Kesil he once identifies 
with Hesper (ix. 9), once with Orion (xxxviii. 31). The 
same uncertainties and contradictions are found in the 
Vulgate : in Klmah this version recognizes Arcturus in Amos 
v. 8, the Hyades in Job ix. 9, and the Pleiades in Job 
xxxviii. 31. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising 
that some scholars (for example, F. Delitzsch) regard the 
interpretations hitherto given to the names of the Biblical 
constellations as subject to complete doubt, and express the 
hope that assistance in these doubts may come later from 
the study of the numerous names of stars already found 
on the Assyrio-Babylonian monuments 1 . In the face of 
such authoritative declarations, no other course is open for 
the present except to set out honestly and impartially the 
position of the question by passing successively in review the 
names presented. 

40. I. 'Ask and 'Ayz'sh. Both these names occur in the 
Book of Job, the first in ix. 9, the second in xxxviii. 32. 
In both places they are accompanied by the names of other 
constellations, so that no doubt can arise as to the nature 
of the thing to which these names correspond. The identity 
of signification of the two is admitted by many, because, 
when account is taken of the uncertainty of the vowels in 
the old Hebrew way of writing, the difference between them 

1 F. Delitzsch, Das Buck Hiob (Leipzig, 1902), Commentary, p. 169. 
This hope does not seem likely to meet with a speedy confirmation. 
We already possess voluminous researches by learned assyriologists on 
the constellations named on the cuneiform inscriptions ; but the discord- 
ance of the results does not inspire much confidence in the security of 
the interpretations. A sample of these differences may be seen in 
Ginzel's article summing the matter up (Die astronomischen Kenntnisse 
der Babylonier und ihre kulturhistorische Bedeutung ; in C. F. Leh- 
mann's collection, Beitrage zur alien Ceschichte, vol. i. pp. 3-24). 

The Constellations 55 

may seem not very important; it is even believed that they 
are only two divergent ways of writing the same word \ The 
word itself seems at first sight to throw little light on the 
meaning. It is used in the Old Testament under the form 
'ash to mean a moth (LXX <n}s, Vulg. tinea). We learn 
something more from the second of the two passages cited 
(xxxviii. 32: 'Dost thou guide € Ayish and her children'?), 
where it is, however, doubtful whether the word children 
is to be understood in a literal or in a metaphorical sense. 
The opinion most generally received is that of the famous 
Aben Ezra 2 , according to whom 'Ash or 'Ayish is nothing 
else than the Great Bear. Both these names are, it is 
pointed out, not very different from the name na'sh (in Arabic 
a bier, or a portable litter), which has been used by the 
Arabs from time immemorial to designate particularly the 
four stars a, 0, y, 8 of the well-known quadrilateral of the 
Great Bear, or the four wheels of the Wain 3 . Further, 
this quadrilateral would, by the Arabs living along the 
Persian Gulf, and by the Jews of Sana and Baghdad, be 
called simply 'ash \ But the constellation of the Great Bear 
also includes, besides the quadrilateral a, /3, y, 6 called na'sh 
by the Arabs, the three stars *, £, 17, which form for us the 
tail of the Bear and the pole of the Wain. Now these same 
Arabs have given to these three stars the name bendt na'sh f 
which is equivalent to ' daughters of the na'sh' This at once 

1 On the conditions of vocalization under which the difference of the 
two names can be reduced to that between the scriptio plena and 
the scriptio defectiva of the same word, see F. Delitzsch, Das Buck Hiob t 
Commentary, p. 144. He inclines to believe that *esk should be read in 
both cases. 

2 Ideler, Untersuchungen iiber die Stemnamen y p. 21. 

3 Kazwini (in Ideler, op. cit. p. 19). Alsufi, Description des t-toilcs 
fixes (translated by Schjellerup), pp. 49-50. 

* Karsten Niebuhr, Beschreibung von Arabien, p. 115. Ideler, op. cit. 
p. 22. Gesenius, Thes. p. 896. 

56 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

recalls to the mind the ' children of 'Ayz'sh' named in Job 
xxxviii. 32. And this parallelism is certainly worthy of 

41. Not much light on the question can be derived from 
the most ancient versions. In the LXX rendering of Job ix. g } 
it is uncertain which of the three names corresponds to the 
'Ash of the Hebrew text 1 ; in Job xxxviii. 32, 'Ayz'sh corre- 
sponds to "EoTTfpoi/. The Vulgate has, in the former place 
Ar durum for 'Ash and in the latter Vesperum for 'Ayz'sh, 
The identification with Vesper seems incredible : for what 
would in that case be the children of Vesper ? But supposing 
(as is likely) that Ar durum is written by mistake for Ardon 2 , 
we should have, at any rate in one of the renderings adopted 
by the Vulgate, a confirmation of the opinion of Aben 

The ancient Syriac version of the Bible (called the 
Peshz'tia) puts 'Iyulha in both places of Job, for 'Ash and 
'Ayz'sh. 'Iyutha is a constellation known to the Syrians, 
mention of which is found in the works of St. Ephrem Syrus 
and of other writers of his nation. It has been supposed by 
several Oriental scholars 3 that 'Iyutha is to be identified with 
the bright star of Auriga, the al$ of the Greeks, called by us 
by the Latin name Capella. Hence Hyde and Ewald have 
believed that the 'Ayz'sh of Job is also to be taken as 
equivalent to Capella. Then the children of 'Ayz'sh named 
by Job would be the small stars near Capella, £ and -q of 

1 The names of the Hebrew text in Job ix. 9 are 'ask, kesil, kimah, 
in this order : similarly the names of the LXX in order are Il\eid5a, 
"Eaircpov, 'ApKrovpov. Now it is probable that kimah corresponds to 
the Pleiades, as we shall prove shortly. This raises a doubt whether 
the order of names has been interchanged in the LXX of Job ix. 
9 ; it would not, therefore, be prudent to make use of this passage 
in the present argument. 

8 On a possible interchange of Arcturus and Arctos, see below, § 52. 

3 Gesenius, Thesawus, pp. 895-6. 

The Constellations 57 

Auriga, called by the Greeks in antiquity, and also by our- 
selves to-day, the kids. 

The weak point of this conclusion consists in % Iyutha 
and Capella being regarded as identical. But it can be 
shown that this identity does not exist, and that the Syrians 
meant by their 'Iyuiha the Head of the celestial Bull, called 
by the Greeks and by us the Hyades 1 . It is a most 
remarkable group, composed of a great red star of the first 
magnitude (the Eye of the Bull, or Aldebaran) and of five 
stars of the fourth magnitude (the minor Hyades), accom- 
panied by several other less visible stars; the whole being 
exactly similar in shape to our letter V, or to the Greek A 
(see fig. 2). 







Fig. 2. The Head of the Bull, or the Hyades. 

The true conclusion is, that according to the testimony of 
the Peshitta, both "Ash and 'Ayish are to be identified with 
the star Aldebaran, and the children of 'Apish with the 
surrounding minor Hyades. 

42. As regards the form 'A sh, the preceding results receive 
additional confirmation in another way. It is asserted in the 
Talmud, on the authority of Rabbi Jehuda (second century), 
that 'Ask is the same as 'Jyu/ka 2 . Attention should also be 


1 The proof of this affirmation is given in the Appendix at the end of 
the book (page 161). 
a Tract. Berakhoth, page 58 b : ' Quid est "ash ? dixit Rab Jehuda, 

58 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

paid to the fact that the name 'ash is several times used in the 
Old Testament to mean the moth, an insect which seems to 
have been as destructive in ancient Palestine as it is amongst 
ourselves. In the larva-state it has no special characteristics, 
but it is more easy to recognize in the butterfly stage. When 
it is at rest, its wings are not held detached from the body, as 
happens with most other butterflies, but spread themselves 
over it in such a way as to form a cloak, more or less similar 
(according to the several species into which the animal can 
be divided) to an isosceles triangle. Now the Hyades are 
arranged so as to form just such a triangle, as can be seen 
from the representation of their shape in fig. 2 above. It 
seems to me possible to explain in this way how the Israelites 
might have given to the constellation of the Hyades the name 
of the moth. The resemblance in this case is not less than 
in the case of the seven Triones, which the Greeks compared 
to a Bear. For all these reasons it becomes fairly probable 
that 'Ash should be identified with the Hyades. 

43. The same arguments might now be adopted, and with 
the same result, for the form 'Ayish, if its identity with 'Ash 
could be considered absolutely certain. The Syriac translator 
in the Peshitta, Aben Ezra, and many recent writers, have 
accepted this identity. If we adopt it, this is equivalent to 
supposing that 'Ayish is Aldebaran and that the ' children of 
'Ayish* are the minor Hyades which surround Aldebaran. 
But it is necessary to remark that the identity is not admitted 
by all Hebraists. Accordingly, as we have explained the 
consequences which follow from adopting it, we ought not to 
fail to mention the consequences of denying it. So then, if 
we assume it to be certain that ' Ayish is different from 'Ash, 

Yutha. Quid est Yutha ? Dicebant ipsi, Cauda Arietis. Alii dicebant 
ipsi, Caput Tauri.' The translation is that of Buxtorf, Lex. Chald. 

Talm. atqw Rabb. p. 1677 [ed. 1S75, p. 834]. On Cauda Arietis as an 
equivalent of K Iyutha, see Appendix, page 161. 

The Constellations 59 

we shall have only one indication to assist us in determining 
its meaning: that given in the text of Job xxxviii. 32, where 
Job is asked whether he can l guide *Ayish and her children ? ' 
This expression, when used to represent a group of stars, will 
be most easily and naturally interpreted, if 'Ayish is taken to 
be a brilliant star, and if by the ' children of 'Aytsh ' we 
understand a certain number of smaller stars crowded round 
it in such a way as to form with it a conspicuous group, 
capable of arresting the attention even of unpractised 
observers. Of such groups, the Hyades and the Pleiades are 
certainly the most noteworthy in the sky. By our present 
hypothesis, the Hyades have to be excluded. As regards 
the Pleiades, popular imagination compares them to a hen 
surrounded by her chickens, and this simile might lead us to 
see in them ' *Ayish and her children/ But the true Hebrew 
name for the Pleiades seems to be Klmah y as will be shown 
below. Accordingly, we shall have to search for *Ayish in 
some one of the other and less obvious groups in the sky, 
such as are, for example, those which we see formed round 
the principal star of the Eagle, of the Lyre, or of the Scorpion. 
In this case, however, we are left absolutely without any 
criterion for judging to which of these groups the preference 
should be given. 

We alluded above to an opinion which would identify 
*Ayish with Capella, and we remarked at the same time that 
the argument on which it is sought to base this demonstration 
is fallacious. Yet this does not prove the opinion itself to 
be wrong ; for anything that we know, it might still be per- 
missible to recognize in Capella and her kids a picture like 
that of ' f Aytsh and her children/ and if any one considered 
this resemblance to be a sign of probable identity, he would 
be hard to refute. On this subject, however, it may be 
observed that, in the irapairr^^iaTa or astro-meteorological 
calendars of the Greeks, the small stars of the kids with their 

60 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

heliacal rising announced a time of storm. This is the sole 
reason for their importance ; for any one who observes these 
stars will easily see that they do not form a noteworthy group 
along with Capella y and that there are many other groups in 
the sky which are equally striking or more so. And it is 
probable that they were called the kids because they are not 
far (about 6 degrees) from Capella, which served to render 
them easier to find, as their own light is very faint If this 
group, which is suggested more by convention than by nature, 
really represented ' 'Ayish and her children,' we might draw 
as a necessary conclusion that the Greeks and the Jews 
received this idea from a common source, perhaps from the 
Syrians or the Phoenicians. And then the question might 
be propounded whether we must accept as effects of pure 
chance the assonances existing between the words al£ and 
'ayish on the one side and between YaSes and 'Iyulha on the 
other. But it will be hard to arrive at certain results on 
a subject such as this ; and it will be better to confess that 
'Ayish) if considered to be something different from 'Ash, 
still remains for us an obscure riddle \ 

44. II. Kesil is named along with other constellations twice 
in Job (ix. 9 and xxxviii. 31) and once in Amos (v. 8). The 
name in Hebrew generally means foolish ; in this sense it is 
often used in the Bible, and frequently implies also the sense 
of impiety. In the second of the passages cited above there 
is a reference to its chains : ' Canst thou loose the bands of 
Orion ? ' This seems to suggest that, in consequence of some 
tradition which is unknown to us, the Jews saw in the con- 
stellation Kesil the form of a man chained for his folly or his 
impiety. Out of the most brilliant constellations in the sky 
there is one, and one only, the form of which agrees with 
such a picture: the suggestion is exactly adapted to the 

1 [See also Appendix, page 167.] 

The Constellations 61 

case of Orion (as the Greeks call it ; al-gebbar or ' the giant ' 
of the Arabs ; the Sahu of the Egyptians ; the Trisanku of the 
old Indian myths), which presents to our view, in seven 
stars of the first and second degrees of magnitude, a coarse 
figure, evidently that of a man of colossal size. The identity 
of the constellation Kesil with our Orion is further attested by 
the tradition of the ancient versions : of the LXX in Job 
xxxviii. 31, and of the Vulgate in Job ix. 9 and Amos v. 8. 
Similarly the Peshitta in Job ix. 9 and xxxviii. 31 gives 
gabbara (' a strong man '), which is the Syriac name for 
Orion, closely related to the Arabic gebbar. Practically all 
the more recent interpreters of the Bible agree in admitting this 
identity. Yet discordant voices are not wanting: thus, Karsten 
Niebuhr wished to identify Kesil with Sirius; Hyde, with 
Canopus 1 . The LXX in Job ix. 9 have recognized it as 
Hesper, and the Vulgate in Job xxxviii. 31 as Arcturus, 
meaning probably the Bear. 

45. The name Kesil is found in the plural in the following 
passage of the Book of Isaiah (xiii. 10) : * The stars of heaven 
and their kesilim shall not shine.' The LXX take no account 

of the plural, writing : ol yap dorcpes rov ovpavov Kai 6 *Qplav, 

Luther does the same. Reuss renders literally: Die Sterne 
am Himmel und seine Orione ('the stars in heaven and its 
Orions'), a version similar to that proposed by Gesenius 2 . 
The Vulgate has : stellae coeli et splendor earum. Diodati : le 
stelle dei cieli y e gli astri di quelli (' the stars of the heavens 
and the celestial bodies '). The version of Philippson pleases 
me more than any other ; he sees in ' the kesilim of heaven ' 
the forms of its constellations : die Sterne des Himmels und 
ihre Bilder strahlen ihr Licht nicht (' the stars of heaven and 
their images do not emit their light '). Even so, however, a 
double application of the same idea is not altogether avoided. 

1 Ideler, Sternnamen^ p. 264. 
8 Gesenius, Thes. p. 701. 

62 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

46. III. Kimah. This name occurs, together with that of 
other constellations, twice in Job (ix. 9 and xxxviii. 31) and 
once in Amos (v. 8). It may be connected with the Arabic 
root kum (meaning accumulavit), or with the Assyrian kamu 
(meaning ligavit) 1 : whence it might be concluded that it 
refers to a cluster of stars closely packed together. Here c the 
chains of Kimah ' (Job xxxviii. 31) must be understood 
in a metaphorical sense. And if that is so, it can refer 
to no other cluster than that of the Pleiades, which is the 
best known of these clusters and also the only one which 
has in consequence of its conspicuous light awakened 
universal attention at every time and among all peoples. 
This inference, which would not perhaps have much force 
in itself, is fortunately confirmed by the tradition of the 
LXX, where kimah, keeping the singular number, is always 
the Pleiad. In this case there is further to be added 
the authority, by no means a despicable one, of Aquila of 
Pontus, who in Job xxxviii. 31 also translates by the Pleiad. 
The example of the LXX and Aquila has been followed 
almost without exception by later interpreters, including 
E. Renan and F. Delitzsch. I say almost without exception, 
because the Vulgate in each of the three texts containing the 
word kimah, has given a different rendering: in one the 
Hyades, in another the Pleiades, in the third Arcturus. 
Albert Schultens, a celebrated commentator on Job (1737), 
seems also to have a different opinion from the ordinary one 
and to consider kimah as denoting the most brilliant stars of 
the southern heavens in general 2 . 

1 This last derivation has been proposed by F. Delitzsch {Proc. Soc. 
Bibl. Archaeol. xii. p. 185). 

* Ideler, Sternnamen, p. 148. In connexion with kimah mention 
must be made of the two different interpretations given of the passage 
concerning it in Job xxxviii. 31. The first part of this verse is understood 
by most in the sense, ' Hast thou bound the chains of the Pleiades ? ' 
where ' the chains ' represent the Hebrew ma % anaddoth. The authors of 

The Constellations 63 

47. IV. Hadre theman. In the Book of Job (ix. 9), all 
the constellations hitherto described are named, and also 
another bearing the name given at the head of this paragraph. 
The LXX translate it rapeta Notov, the Vulgate interior a 
Austri; and these versions render well the literal sense of the 
word. As a matter of fact, heder is derived from the root 
hadar^ which means in Arabic laiuit. It denotes properly 
the inmost and most strongly defended portion of a dwelling, 
where the articles of greatest value are kept, penetralia ; it 
is also used in a metaphorical sense to indicate the most 
internal and most secluded part of anything. As for theman, 
it means the right side, and, for the Jews, who took their 
bearings while turning their faces to the east, it meant further 
the south side and the south wind. Combining these 
significations with the fact that the reference here is un- 
doubtedly to constellations in the sky, Luther has translated 

the most ancient versions (the LXX, Aquila, and the Vulgate) have read 
it so in their copies. But the fact is that in the present Massoretic text 
the same word, with the transposition of the letters «, d, is written 
ma'adannoth, which means deliciae, oblectamcnta, cupediae (Gesenius, 
Thes. pp. 995-6). Those interpreters who have wished to adhere to this 
reading have had to be content with simply transcribing the word 
without looking for a meaning in it, as Diodati has done, rendering: 
Puoi tu legare le delizie delle Gallinelle ? (' Canst thou bind the 
delights of the Pleiades ? ') Or else they have had to admit a very free 
translation, as we see done in the English Authorized Version, ' Canst 
thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades ? ' [R.V. has : c the cluster of 
the Pleiades/ giving 'chain' and 'sweet influences' as alternatives in 
the margin.] In these 'sweet influences' which the Pleiades are sup- 
posed to exercise, the celebrated meteorologist Maury (Sailing 
Directions, Washington, 1858, vol. i. p. 17) has recognized nothing less 
than universal attraction and the constitution of the starry universe as 
conceived in the hypothesis of Maedler, which made the Pleiades the 
centre of all the movements of the stars. The baselessness of this 
hypothesis is now recognized by all astronomers. We have here, how- 
ever, a new example of the singular aberrations to which men can be 
led (and to which they have more than once actually been led) by the 
desire of finding in the Bible what cannot possibly be there. 

64 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

hadre theman by die Sterne gegen Mittag (' the stars towards 
the south'), Diodati by i segni che sono in fondo alV Austro 
(' the signs that are in the depths at the south ') : both are, 
in my judgement, excellent renderings. The author of the 
Book of Job has unquestionably wished to indicate some 
brilliant constellation among the most southerly ones in his 
horizon. The search for such a constellation would not be 
difficult if during the interval between the writer's time and 
our own the fact of precession had not intervened; as 
a result of precession, many southerly stars which were 
visible in Palestine (that is to say, about the thirty-second 
degree of north latitude) when the Book of Job was written, 
would be now no longer visible at the same latitude, or vice 
versa. Before all, then, it will be necessary to gain a 
sufficiently exact picture of the southern heavens in the year 
750 b. c, which we may suppose to represent the date of the 
Book of Job. On this date, as is well known, students of 
Hebrew literature have not yet been able to come to an 
agreement ' ; fortunately for us, three or four centuries more 
or less do not essentially change the conditions of the problem. 
48. On a globe representing with some accuracy the 
actual state of the starry heavens, take a point whose right 
ascension is 17 and south declination 75° This point will 
indicate approximately the position which the antarctic 
pole occupied among the stars in the year 750 b. c. From 
the same point as pole, take an aperture of the compasses 
which embraces on the globe 32 of a great circle, and 
describe a circle. Within this circle will be found all the 
stars which were invisible on the horizon of Palestine (or 
generally, of places under the parallel 32 north latitude) in 
that same year 750 b.c If again, outside this circle, with 

1 Opinions vary from the time of Moses (1300 B.C.?) to that of the 
successors of Alexander (300 B.C., or even later). The interval is of 
a thousand years and more. 

The Constellations 65 

the same pole, another circle be described 20 distant from the 
first, we shall then have marked on the globe between the 
two circles a spherical zone of 20 breadth ; within this zone 
will be included all the stars which in 750 b.c culminated in 
Palestine at a height less than 20 above the southern horizon. 
This is sufficient, since it is among these that we must look for 
the constellation called hadre iheman or chambers of the south. 
49. Now, if we examine this zone, we shall find that 
for three quarters of its extent it is rather poor in conspicuous 
stars and contains no really important constellation. But 
the remaining quarter, which begins with a Argus (Canopus) 
and ends with a Centaur /, is for the number and brilliancy of 
its large stars the brightest part of the sky; it is to this 
that Alexander von Humboldt applies the expression 'the 
splendour (Pracht) of the southern heaven 1 .' In a space 
embracing less than one-thirtieth of the whole sky we see 
here five stars of the first magnitude (including Canopus, the 
most luminous of all stars next to Sirius), whereas there are 
only about twenty such stars in the whole stellar sphere. 
Further there are five stars also of the second magnitude, 
while the whole heaven only contains about sixty of them. 
Nor is there any lack of smaller stars in abundance, down to 
the furthest limit of those visible to the naked eye 2 . All 
these stars form a splendid garland, having for its background 
the densest and most brilliant portion of the Milky Way. No 
other part of the sky contains in an equal space such a mass 
of light ; it actually produces in the atmosphere a faint 
twilight illumination like that which the moon gives in the 

1 A. Humboldt, Cosmos (Eng. tr. by Sabine, iii. 127). 

2 The relative abundance of this region in stars of all orders visible to 
the naked eye, from the first to the sixth degree of magnitude, can be 
verified from the charts appended to the author's article, On the apparent 
distribution of stars visible to the naked eye, in the Publications of the 
Brera Observatory in Milan, No. xxxiv. 

sen. F 

66 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

first days after new moon 1 . In 750 b.c. all this region 
passed to its meridian on the extreme southern horizon of 
Palestine, the brilliant stars to which we have referred above 
culminating at a height lying between 5 and 16 02 . These 
stars form an imposing constellation, more brilliant than any 
other, not excepting Orion : on the charts of to-day it is dis- 
tributed between Argo, the Southern Cross, and the Centaur. 
This is the constellation which we can with great probability 
identify with the chambers of the south ; not only because it 
satisfies, but because it alone satisfies, all the conditions of the 
case. In the times to which we are now alluding, the shepherds 
and peasants of Palestine could have seen it (as they can no 
longer see) on the extreme southern horizon under an aspect 
of intense light as though of an aurora australis sprinkled with 
brilliant stars, and have admired a spectacle which can in our 
time be seen only by those who go towards the equator as 
far as the twentieth degree of north latitude. 

50. An examination of the map of the southern sky will 
show that the constellation which we have mentioned is con- 
nected, from the side of Canopus, with Sirius by means 
of some beautiful stars of Canis Major and of Argo. In 

1 ' Such is the general blaze of star-light near the Cross, from that 
part of the sky, that a person is immediately made aware of its having 
arisen above the horizon, though he should not be at the time looking 
at the heavens, by the increase of general illumination of the atmosphere*, 
resembling the effect of young Moon.' (Jacob, astronomer at Madras, 
as cited by Humboldt, Cosmos, Eng. tr. by Sabine, iii. note 254 to p. 137.) 
3 Names of these stars, their magnitude, and their height of culmination, 
under the parallel 32 north in 750 B.C. : — 

Canopus 1st magnitude 5 7 Cruets 2nd magnitude 16 * 

7 Argus 2nd „ 16 a Cruets 1st „ lo° 

e Argus 2nd „ 6° /3 Cruets 1st „ 13$° 

rj Argus (variable) n° Centauri 1st „ I2|° 

t Argus 2nd magnitude 8J° a Centauri 1st „ 10J 

The variable star rj Argus sometimes sinks to the third or fourth 
magnitude; at other times it rises to the first magnitude and approxi- 
mates to the brightness of Canopus. 

The Constellations 67 

so far it might be permissible to extend this constellation as 
far as Sirius and to suppose that in hadre theman there was 
also included this last-named star, the most striking and the 
most luminous in the whole sky. In that case we should 
have here an allusion in the Old Testament to Sirius as 
well, whereas otherwise there is absolute silence about it. 
Yet it must be noted that in 750 b.c, under the thirty-second 
parallel of north latitude, Sirius culminated at a height of 
41 : on this account perhaps it was already too far from the 
horizon to be included in the chambers of the south. 

The chambers of the south are also alluded to in another 
passage of Job (xxxvii. 9), where it is said : l out of the heder 
cometh the tempest.' These chambers, whence issues the 
tempest, are to be understood as placed in the direction 
of the south wind ; in fact, among the Jews the south wind 
meant the sirocco, bringing storms and heat, as is clear from 
some passages quoted in the note below l . It seems, therefore, 
plausible and natural to suppose that the heder named here repre- 
sents the same thing as that which in Job ix. 9 is more clearly 
indicated by hadre theman. The LXX and the Vulgate have 
used the same words, ra^Xa and interior a, in both passages 2 . 

51. V. Mezarim. The same verse of Job (xxxvii. 9) 
contains in addition the name of another constellation. 
Transcribing the verse as a whole, it runs thus : * Out of 
the heder cometh the tempest, and cold out of the mezarim. 
I cannot agree with the interpreters on the meaning of the 
word mezarim. Some derive it from zarah = disperdo, from 
which it is said to be a simple participle = disperdentes. So 

1 Job xxxvii. 17:' Thou whose garments are hot, when the earth is 
still by reason of the south wind.' Isa. xxi. 1 : ' As whirlwinds come 
from the south/ Zech. ix. 14 : ' He will go with the storms of the south.' 

2 A fuller discussion of the meaning of the words hadre theman is to 
be found in an article by the author : ' Astronomical interpretations 
of two passages in the Book of Job,' published in the Pavia Review of 
Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Science, 4th year, No. 37, 1903. 

F 2 

68 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

they would understand it of the winds as the scatterers of 
the clouds. But why wind and why clouds ? 

Others have noticed that there is a kind of symmetrical 
opposition between the members of the verse quoted above : 
in the first part, the subject is the south and its hot wind ; 
the second refers to the cold, which can only come from the 
north. This opposition had already been observed by 
Luther, who translates Vom Mittag her kommt das Wetter ; 
und von Mitternacht K&lte^ from the south comes storm, and 
from the north cold '). So too Diodati : La tempesta viene 
dalt Austro e ilfreddo dal Seitentrione^ the tempest comes from 
the south, and cold from the north '). Taking account of this 
fact, it seems natural to think that, if the heder of the first half of 
the verse represents a constellation. in the south, the mezarim, 
1 which bring cold/ can be nothing.else than a constellation in 
the north : and what other than the Bear or the two Bears ? 

52. The LXX translate the second half ana 'ApKrovpov 
yfrCxos l , and the Vulgate renders identically : ab Arcturo 
frigus. Only that it is evident in both, cases '(as has already 
been observed by Grotius) that instead of Arcturus (the 
bright star of Bootes) we must understand Arctos or the 
Bear. This confusion is often found in writers who are not 
specially versed in describing the stars *_; and in the case 
in question there can be no doubt of it. As a matter of fact, 
for the Jews, as for us, cold came from the north, as is 
clearly stated in Ecclesiasticus 3 ; and Arcturus could not be 

1 As a matter of fact, the common text has dtrd facpiuTrjplojv ipv\os. 
Bat several scholars, with whom Gesenius {Thes. p. 430) agrees, have 
already remarked that dKpomjpiwv can only be a copyist's error for 

8 A recent example of the confusion between Arcturus and Arctos is 
given by Stoppani in his work (otherwise most admirable) Sulla Costno- 
gonia Mosaica, p. 310 ; where Arcturus is said to be a star in the Bear. 

' heel us. xliii. 33 : ' Frigid us ventus Aquilo flavit, etgelavit cry stall us 
ab aqua/ 

The Constellations 69 

described as a northern star, since its distance from the 
celestial equator was about thirty-two degrees at the time of 
the LXX, and about twenty-eight degrees at the time of the 
Vulgate. Considering all these facts, I think it probable 
that mezarim simply means the constellations nearest to the 
arctic pole, probably Ursa Major or both the Bears : to 
which then corresponded, even better than now, the direction 
of the cold north winds \ It is, therefore, fitting that the 
author of the Book of Job should make the stormy and 
hot south wind come from the quarter where the hadre 
theman, that is to say, the large southern constellations, 
appeared ; and should make the cold north wind come from 
the quarter where the most northerly stars, the mezarim 
or the arctic constellations, could every night be seen. 

53. We are now in a position to propound a plausible 
conjecture as to the true reading and the origin of the name 
which in the pointed Massoretic text is now read mezarim. 
We may first observe that the five Hebrew letters with 
which this name was written in the original unpointed text 
could equally well be read, with a somewhat different point- 
ing, as mizrim, or also as mizrayim, of which the one is the 
plural, the other the dual, of mizreh. Now mizreh means 
a winnowing-fan, the instrument with which grain is scat- 
tered in the air to sift it 2 ; and it has its root, like mezarim, 
in the word zarah } to which we have already referred above, 
and which, besides the sense dispersit 3 bears also the sense 
expandit, ventilavit. 

Now it is easy to see, if the arrangement of the seven stars 

1 About the year 750 B.C. the pole was not far distant from £, e, 7 of the 
Little Bear : so that it could be said to be as near to the pole as it now is. 
But the Great Bear was then much nearer to the pole than now. Of its 
seven stars the furthest from the pole was 17, the last in the tail, and the 
polar distance of this one did not amount to twenty-six degrees. 

3 This sense is assured by the use made of it in Isa. xxx. 34 and 
Jer. xt. 7. 

70 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

of the Great Bear is considered, that their shape can be com- 
pared to a winnowing-fan quite as well as (or perhaps even 
better than) to a bear or a waggon. In fact, the hollow part 
of the winnowing-fan, in which the grain is put, may very 
fairly be said to be represented by the four stars a, 0, y, 8 
of the quadrilateral ; while the stars e, (, rj may quite well 
form the handle. The ancient Chinese, following out a 
similar idea, have recognized in the seven stars the form 
of a ladle (an instrument which scarcely differs in shape 
from a winnowing-fan), and, in this conception also, they 


FlG. 3. Constellation of the Winnowing-fan, as 
conceived by the Jews. 

treat a, /3, y, 8 as the cavity, and e, £, 17 as the handle *. The 
hypothesis, accordingly, that the Jews, being an agricultural 
people, might have likened the arrangement of the seven stars 
to a winnowing-fan, is not devoid of some foundation 2 . 

To conclude: if mizreh may be read in the text of 
Job xxxvii. 9, we should undoubtedly have to recognize 

1 In the Shih-king, or collection of the most ancient Chinese poetry, 
there is an ode in which the poet, after describing the position of various 
constellations in relation to his horizon, concludes thus : ' On the side 
of the north is the Ladle, which lengthens its handle towards the west.' 
This happens when the Bear is below the pole. See Legge, The Sacred 
Books of China, p. 364 (vol. iii in the collection of the Sacred Books of 
the East, edited by Max Muller). 

3 The figures here given (Figs. 3 and 4) serve to show how the stars 
of the Great Bear can be represented as a winnowing-fan (according to 
the conception of the Jews), or as a ladle (according to the conception 
of the Chinese). 

The Constellations 71 

in it the large winnowing-fan represented by the stars of the 
Great Bear. But as we are obliged in any case to read 
mizrim in the plural or mizrayim in the dual, we shall at once 
perceive that it is not a question here of one winnowing-fan 
only ; and as the Bears in our nomenclature are also two, 
both readings fit the case perfectly. So we come to learn 
that the ancient Jews, besides the Great Bear, knew the 
Lesser Bear also, representing that too to themselves under 
the shape of a winnowing-fan. Nor can this cause any 
surprise. It is historically certain that the Phoenicians 
(which is equivalent to saying the Canaanites) used the Lesser 

%*^r •«. 

V*- -•-- ~T 



«i » 

Fig. 4. Constellation of the Ladle, as conceived by the Chinese. 

Bear to find the direction of the north when at sea, and 
for this reason the Greeks, who learnt its use from them, 
gave it the name QotviKtj. Consequendy, even if the Jews 
had not noted this constellation on their own account (and 
the Arabs did learn to note it on their own account), they 
would always have been able to acquire a knowledge of 
it from the Canaanites, with whom they lived intermingled in 
Palestine for several centuries, till they ended by entirely 
absorbing or assimilating them. The five letters in the text 
here discussed, which have hitherto been read mezarim t 
ought instead to be pointed so as to read mizrim or mizrayim, 
and mean the winnwuing-fans or the two winnowing- 
fans, corresponding to what we call the two Bears. The 
result is to confirm, at any rate in substance, the 

72 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

traditional interpretation preserved by the LXX and the 
Vulgate \ 

54. Besides the constellations already mentioned, some 
interpreters think that another is to be recognized in the 
nahash bariah of Job xxvi. 13, which means fugitive serpent 

(LXX bpaKovra anoo-TaTTjv : SymmachllS rbv ifytv top (TvyKkciovra I 

Vulgate coluber tortuosus). There can be no question here 
of the Dragon of the sky, which winds between the two 
Bears. The Dragon is in fact one of the artificial con- 
stellations, invented by the ancients when they felt the 
necessity of occupying the whole heaven with groups of 
figures so as to be able to use a simple method of naming 
the stars ; a constellation whose shape does not carry con- 
viction, just as, for that matter, the two other serpents of the 
sky, the serpent of Ophiuchus and the Hydra, have no obvious 
shape, and are mere expedients for filling up. However, 
if any one is at the pains of comparing the words cited from 
Job xxvi. 13 with the rest of the speech preceding and 
following them, he will not think it likely that there is 
any allusion here to a constellation or even to any kind 
of astronomical myth. 

55. In two other places in Job (ix. 13 and xxvi. 12) 
we find the name rahab, which is differently understood 
by various writers. The word has in general the sense 
of ferocity, insolence, pride, and is sometimes employed 
symbolically to represent Egypt 2 . The LXX in the first 
of the two passages have tcjrrj to in oipavop ; in the second, 
t6 KijTot. Hence Reuss has thought that the allusion is to an 
astronomical myth : Renan definitely names the constellation 

1 Some further treatment of the question affecting tnczarim may be 
found in the author's article on 'Astronomical interpretations of two 
passages in the Book of Job ' (see p. 67). 

9 Ps. Ixxxvii. 4, lxxxix. 10; Isa. xxx 7. See Gesenius, Theh 
p. 1267. 

The Constellations 73 

of the Whale, but, to all seeming, with little ground '. 
Further, it may here too be objected that the Whale is not a 
natural grouping of stars which attracts attention at the first 
glance : like the Dragon, it is an artificial constellation made 
to unite together under one figure many stars of no special 
distinction, which are spread irregularly over a large tract 
of sky. Hence Rahab might be a fabulous monster, like 
Leviathan or Behemoth ; but it does not seem easy to find for 
it any connexion with the stars of the sky. In the note are 
indicated the very divergent interpretations given by various 
authors for the phrase 'ozere rahab in Job ix. 13 2 : a com- 
parison of these will enable the reader to see in what grave 
uncertainty the matter is involved. 

56. Strictly speaking, therefore, we find certain designa- 
tions in the Old Testament for only six constellations, which 
would come to be identified, more or less plausibly, with the 
following : Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, the Hyades with Alde- 
baran, Orion, the Pleiades, and the so-called chambers of the 
south. Ursa Major, the Hyades, Orion, and the Pleiades, 
are also found in Homer, and, more generally, in almost 
all primitive descriptions of the universe. To the chambers of 
the south, however, Homer does not allude, as he lived in 
a more northerly latitude (about 3 8°), at which some of those 
stars could not be seen (for instance Canopus), others 
appeared too low down and immersed in the vapours of 
the horizon. 

1 Gesenius {Thes. p. 1268) makes the just observation that ra for' 
ovpavSv, ' the things that are under the heaven? are terrestrial things, 
just as things ' under the sun ' or * sublunary things' are terrestrial. 

3 LXX, /fqrij tcL vir' ovpav6v : Symmachus, ol tirtptiSSfitvoi aXa^ovda : 
Vulgate, qui portant orbem : Luther, die stolzen Herren (the proud 
rulers) : Diodati, i bravi campioni (the brave champions) : Philippson, 
des Widerstandes Stiitzen (pillars of resistance) : Reuss, des Drachen 
Bundesgenossen (the allies of the dragon) : Renan, la milice du Dragon 
{Baleine ?) : Delitzsch, die Heifer des Rahab (the helpers of Rahab : 
so R.V.). See Gesenius, Thes. pp. 1267-8. 



Mazzaroth or Mazzaloth. — Various interpretations of this name. — It 
cannot be the Great Bear. — It probably represents the two phases 
of Venus. — Comparison of a Biblical expression with some Baby- 
lonian monuments. — The host of heaven reconsidered. 

57. The two words mazzaroth and mazzaloth seem to 
refer, under a slightly different pronunciation, to the same 
celestial object or to the same system of celestial objects \ 
In Job (xxxviii. 31-2) the name mazzarotk is found in 
company with various constellations, the whole context 
standing as follows: 'Hast thou bound the chains of the 
Pleiades or unloosed the bonds of Orion ? Dost thou make 
mazzarotk come forth in his season, and dost thou guide the 
'qyish with her children?' In the second Book of Kings 
(xxiii. 5) we read of king Josiah that he exterminated those 
who worshipped and burnt incense to Baal, 'the sun, the 
moon, mazzaloth, and all the host of heaven/ 

The ancient versions here give us little aid in regard to 
these words : we cannot be wrong in saying that the LXX 
were already ignorant of their meaning, since in both 
places they do not translate, but simply transcribe them as 
na£ovpa>9. We have reason to believe that Aquila also did 
the same. The Vulgate has Luciferum in the former of the 
two passages, duodecim signa in the second. Symmachus 

1 The authority of the LXX and of Aquila, whose transcription is 
fm^ovpijO, seems to support by preference the former mode of pro- 

Mazzaroth 75 

translated by o-KopirurBevra 1 . St. Chrysostom (with whom 
many others agree) interprets as faSta, but remarks that 
other interpreters identify pa(ovpa>0 with the heavenly dog, 
meaning Sirius. 

58. It is not even quite certain whether the allusion is to 
one thing or several. The termination oth would certainly 
seem to indicate a plural, and the majority of interpreters 
have taken this view. Yet it is worth notice that in Job 
xxxviii. 32 the Massoretic text reads: hathotsi mazzaroth 
beittd. And the Septuagint is in exact agreement : 9 Buutoigeis 
fmCovpa>6 iv Kmpu, qvtov ; This can only be translated in English 
by : ' Dost thou make mazzaroth come forth in his season ? ' 
Clearly then, mazzaroth is here considered as a singular. 
However, the word might be considered to be a plural in 
grammatical form but not in meaning, as happens fairly often 
in the Hebrew language 2 . Taking this point of view, it 
would no longer appear absurd to suppose that mazzaroth 
might stand for a single star. Now, when we read the 
series in 2 Kings : ' The sun, the moon, mazzaloth % and 
all the host of heaven/ the idea naturally suggests itself 
that mazzaloth is the most luminous star after the sun and 
moon, worthy as such of being distinguished from all the 
host of heaven : or in other words, the planet Venus, as the 
author of the Vulgate supposes 3 , and as Theodoret also 
thought. Consideration will show that there is some reason 
also, though not equal justification, for the opinion of 
St. Chrysostom which identified mazzaloth with Sirius. Sirius 
is in fact the most luminous of all stars properly so called. 

1 This is certainly from ffKopirifa = spargo, disperdo ; so that 
mazzaroth would mean the stars or constellations that are scattered. It 
is clear that Symmachns derived mazzaroth from the root zarah y 
signifying sparstt, dzspersit, dissipavit. 

a To take the best known instances: Elokim (God), shamayim 
(heaven), mayim (water), all have a plural termination. 
' s Job xxxviii. 32. 

76 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

59. An examination of the relation that may exist between 
viazzaroth and the constellations mezarim leads to a very 
different result. We have examined mezarim above (§§ 51-3), 
and saw that for reasons of considerable plausibility they 
could be identified with the two Bears. The relation between 
viazzaroth and mezarim was considered as one of complete 
identity as long ago as the time of the celebrated Aquila, who 
translated the Old Testament into Greek in the second 
century after Christ. In the surviving fragments of this 
version he renders mezarim by fxagovp, which only differs 
from the paCovp&d of the LXX as a singular from a plural. 
The identity of the two also seemed probable to the great 
commentator Abraham Aben Ezra ; and Diodati's translation 
of mazzaroth by ' segni settentrionali ' (northern signs) appears 
also to rest upon this foundation. It is undoubtedly true 
that arguments of no slight force can be adduced in favour 
of this identity, drawn from the analysis of the two words as 
they stand in the unpointed text. None the less it is certain 
that, if our conclusions be admitted, according to which 
mezarim (or rather mizrayim) represents the two Bears, the 
identity in question must be entirely set on one side. What- 
ever may be the star or collection of stars which the Bible 
indicates by the name of mazzaroth, one thing is certain: 
it cannot be a circumpolar star or a group of circumpolar 
stars. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew says : l Dost thou 
make mazzaroth come forth in his season?' Clearly then, 
mazzaroth was a star or a constellation or a collection of 
stars, subject to periodic appearances and not always visible, 
that ' came forth' (i.e. rose above the horizon) ' at a determined 
season.' Now this cannot be said of the mezarim or 
mizrayim, supposing that they are the Bears ; for the Bears 
were both absolutely circumpolar for the latitude of Palestine 
at the time when the Book of Job was written. Hence they 
could not 'come forth' at any season: as they were con- 

Mazzaroth 77 

tinually visible from evening to morning on any clear night, 
it could not be said of them that they repeated their appear- 
ances at fixed times, 

60. The etymology for the word mazzaroth given by 
Symmachus * and others, who derive it from the verb zarah 
(dispersit, dissipavit, ventilavit\ does not seem to lead to any 
probable conclusion as to its meaning. But another can be 
drawn from the verb azar, which has the meaning cinxit: 
whence azor (girdle) and mazzaroth (formed in a girdle). Maz* 
zaroih would then be stars or constellations arranged in such 
a way as to form a girdle or a wreath. And so some ancient 
Jewish interpreters have explained the word by rota siderum 
or zona siderum : more recent ones have had recourse to the 
Corona Borealis, others again to the girdle of Orion. But the 
former of these two does not seem to be a constellation of 
sufficient importance or prominence to enter into discussion 
here ; while as for the girdle of Orion, that is undoubtedly 
excluded by the fact that Orion is found named as a whole, 
immediately before the mazzaroth, in the passage from Job 
(xxxviii. 31,32) cited a short way back. — Again, there is in the 
sky another girdle or wreath of much greater importance, 
namely, that formed by the constellations which mark in the 
heaven the course of the sun and of the moon. This is the 
belt of the signs of the zodiac, which played such a prominent 
part in ancient astronomy, and still more in astrology. 
Hence, perhaps, arises the opinion which finds expression 
in the Vulgate 2 and in St. Chrysostom that the mazzaroth 
are simply the twelve signs of the zodiac : an opinion which 
has come to be widely spread since and has ended in being 
received by the majority of interpreters. 

61. Gesenius (Thes. pp. 869, 870) admits the explanation 
of mazzaroth as the signs of the zodiac, principally on the 
authority of later Jewish and Chaldaean tradition. He rejects 

1 See above, p. 75. * a Kings xxiii. 5. 

78 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

the explanation * girdle ' or * wreath ' given above, and asserts 
that the only possible meaning ex certo linguae Hebraicae et 
Arabicae usu is that of ' premonition/ and, in a concrete sense, 
of ' premonitory stars.' This sense he deduces from the root 
nazar, which among its meanings has, especially in Arabic, that 
of advising a man not to do something. The interpretation 
seems very far-fetched ; I may also be allowed to remark that 
the ' premonitory stars ' par excellence would in that case be, 
not the twelve signs, but the seven planets, which form the 
principal basis of all astrology. But the hypothesis of the 
planets is expressly rejected by Gesenius. 

62. It must further be noticed that all is still doubt and 
mystery as regards the date when, and the nation in which, 
the zodiac was invented 1 . In the present state of our 
knowledge, no one is in a position to prove that the zodiac 
and its twelve signs were already known at the time when 
Josiah exterminated the worship of the mazzaloth at Jerusalem 
(621 b.c). Again, if the word bore the meaning of a ' girdle* 
or 'belt* of constellations encircling the whole sky, that 
would not be because it stood for the twelve signs, but rather 
because it represented the twenty-eight stations of the moon, 
the observation of which is undoubtedly easier and is in 
a certain way suggested by nature, while the division of the 
twelve signs is entirely conventional. Hence it comes that 

1 Scholars have in recent years believed that they have found thg 
zodiac on Assyrio-Babylonian monuments, which are much older than 
anything Greece could have produced on this subject. What they have 
really succeeded in proving is that three or four out of the numerous 
figures which are supposed to represent constellations of the Babylonian 
heavens, belong to the Greek zodiac. A true Babylonian zodiac earlier 
than the Greek (that is to say, a series of twelve constellations arranged 
along the annual course of the sun) has not, so far as I am aware, been 
yet published. The question of the origin of the zodiac is just now 
being valiantly debated by many learned men, and it would be pre- 
sumptuous to express an opinion at this moment which did not rest on 
an accurate study of the documents. 

Mazzaroth 79 

the lunar stations are found in the primitive astronomy of 
Asia, not only among the Semites of Arabia (and perhaps of 
Babylon), but actually also among the Indians of Vedic 
times and among the Chinese of the first dynasty. The 
Jews, who at all periods of their existence as a nation are 
found in frequent contact with the Semites as well of Meso- 
potamia as of Arabia, might easily receive from them the 
notion of the lunar stations. 

63. This hypothesis might find support from the actual 
meaning of the word, if it be assumed that mazzaloth is its 
right pronunciation. This can, in fact, be derived from the root 
nazal, which is found, not in the Old Testament, but in Arabic 
writers, with the meaning descendil, devtriii : mazzaloth would 
then have the sense of ' stations on a journey/ and be perfectly 
fitted to denote a series of constellations, each of which serves 
to mark from day to day the tracts of the sky traversed by the 
moon in twenty-four hours along her apparent orbit This 
title, ' stations on a journey/ would correspond very imper- 
fectly with the signs of the zodiac, which constitute an 
arbitrary and conventional division, not determined by the 
necessity of the daily rest which forms the fundamental idea 
of the lunar stations. This interpretation of mazzaloth might 
also be further authenticated by the habit of the Arabs, who 
have from time immemorial given to their lunar stations 1 the 
name menazil el-kamar, or 'stations of the moon.' Now^ 
menazil is the plural of menzil (station or lodging), a word 
derived from the Arabic root nazal, which we have cited 
above as having the meaning descendit, deversatus est. These 
considerations would leave no doubt as to the identity of 
the Hebrew mazzaloth with the Arabic menazil, if it were 
quite certain that the ancient Hebrew would use the root 

1 A full account of the lunar stations of the Arabs may be found in 
Ideler, Stermuimen, pp. 120 and 287. 

80 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

nazal in the same sense as that in which it is found used in 
Arabic *. 

64. There is, however, a decisive consideration to which no 
one appears to have paid attention. According to the narrative 
in 2 Kings (xxiii. 5), divine honours were offered in Jeru- 
salem to mazzaloth, as to the sun and to the moon. The 
origin of this worship can be sought nowhere else than in 
Babylonia. Now, in all that is known of the star-worship of 
the Babylonians, not the least trace can be found of an 
adoration of the signs of the zodiac or of the lunar stations. 
This is enough to eliminate all possibility of recognizing in 
mazzaroih either these signs or the lunar stations. 

65. Much preferable in this respect would be the hypothesis 
which supposes that mazzaroth stands for the five larger 
planets. On the adoration of which they were the object 
in Palestine, we have the positive testimony of Amos * : at 
Babylon and Nineveh they were placed among the greater 
divinities. Further, the place assigned to mazzaloth in 
2 Kings, immediately after the sun and the moon, corre- 
sponds well to the great brightness of the planets, and parti- 
cularly of Venus, Jupiter, and Mars. To the planets may 
be applied in an astrological sense the title 'premonitory 
stars/ which Gesenius supports. Hence it was just to the 
planets that the name mazzaloth was employed in Rabbinic 
literature, to indicate the determiners of fate 8 . Lastly, it may 
be observed that the regular and periodic appearances, which 
seem to be implied in Job xxxviii. 32, fit in well with the planets. 

1 Gesenius in his Thesaurus admits this root nazal only in the sense 
of fiuxiti manavit. But Leopold in his manual lexicon allows in 
addition the different sense of descendit, dcversatus est : probably with 
a view to mazzaloth, which he explains as deversoria Softs, id est 
duodecim zodiaci signa. [The root has this latter sense in Arabic ; see 
Frey tag's Lexicon AraJficum."] 

* Amos v. 26, 

* Riehm, Handwdrttrbuch des biblischen Alterthutns, p. 1551. 

Mazzaroth 81 

66. Fox Talbot, one of the creators of the photographic 
art, and at the same time one of the founders of Assyriology, 
turned his acute intellect to this question also 1 . He com- 
pares mazzaroth with the Assyrian word matsartu, meaning 
' watch/ According to him, therefore, mazzaroth would be 
the constellations which, by their successive rising above the 
horizon, or rather, by their successive culmination in the 
meridian, indicated the hours of the night at which the 
sentinels had to be changed. This idea seems to be worthy 
of careful consideration. As a matter of fact, in Assyrian, 
matsartu is derived from the word natsaru, meaning to 
< watch/ custodtre. Now the same verb, in the same form 
natsar and with the same meaning, exists in Hebrew also, 
as can be seen from the lexica. So, then, it ought to be 
possible to derive matsaroth in Hebrew from natsar in the 
sense of 'watch/ as in Assyrian matsartu is derived front 
natsaru in the same sense. And it can be seen further that 
the pure and simple meaning ' watch ' or ' guard/ corresponds, 
better than that proposed by Talbot of ' stars determining the 
changes of sentinels/ to the nature of analogous derivations 
Used in the Hebrew language. 

67. We may also observe that the problem of determining 
at every instant the hour of the night by the appearance of 
the constellations alone, is not so simple as some might think, 
and requires a continued study of the sky and its aspects at 
the various stages of the year. And it is much to be doubted 
whether in the Assyrian armies (and generally in any army, 
ancient or modern) astronomical knowledge had reached the 
point necessary to render this method of changing the watch 
possible. Probably some means were employed for this 
object which were also applicable when the sky was clouded 
over ; and perhaps long experience of estimating duration 
was sufficient for the purpose without any external aid. 

1 Trans. Soc. Bibl. Archaeol. i. 339-42. 


82 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

68. Yet in spite of this, the fact remains that if, with 
Talbot, the form matsaroth is assumed and is considered to 
be derived from the Hebrew verb natsar, the meaning of 
• watch' or 'sentinel* deduced from it may lead us to a 
plausible interpretation, provided that any one of the stars 
can be found which answers well to this meaning. The two 
Bears, for instance, would correspond well to this condition, 
since it can be said of them that they keep watch continu- 
ously in the sky and might even be thought of as two 
sentinels placed to guard the arctic pole of the heavens. But 
it has already been shown above that there cannot here be 
any question of circumpolar stars, as mazzaroth have to come 
forth at fixed seasons (§59). All the conditions, on the 
other hand, are satisfied by two stars of exceptional bright- 
ness, which keep guard in turn over the sun, the one 
preceding him in the morning at his rising, the other follow- 
ing him in the evening at his setting: Lucifer and 
Hesperus, the star of morning and the star of evening. In 
this way we are led back to the interpretation given by the 
Vulgate in Job xxxviii. 32 and also adopted by Theodoret. 

69. In spite of the small account which the most authori- 
tative expositors seem to have made of it, various other 
reasons speak in its favour, and render it, perhaps, more 
probable than any other. 

I. This hypothesis is the only one according to which the 
plural form of the name can be reconciled with the use made 
pf it as one thing in the singular number, in Job xxxviii. 32. 
In fact the planet Venus, apparently uniting two different 
manifestations as Hesperus and Lucifer, may have received a 
plural name from the first, i. e. the name mazzaroth \ When 

1 Strictly speaking, a dual might be expected, but this is not 
a necessary condition. For instance, the two tables of the law of 
Moses are always in the Old Testament named in the plural {JuhotK) 
and never in the dual (luhothayim). That the two aspects of Venus 

Mazzaroth 83 

the identity of its two appearances at morning and evening 
was discovered, it naturally came to be thought of as one 
star, and hence the author of the Book of Job used it as a 
singular in a plural garb. 

II. In Job xxxviii. 32 we read: 'Dost thou bring forth 
mazzaroth in his season?' The phrase clearly indicates a 
law of periodical appearance. Now it is perfectly true that 
not only the zodiacal stars, but all non-circumpolar stars 
generally, appear periodically during the year when effecting 
their heliacal rising; but the special stress here laid on a 
period seems to indicate something different from what 
happens with the generality of stars. Again, as in the dis- 
course in chapter xxxviii God propounds to Job a series of 
things which are impossible to man, and the secret of which 
is reserved to the Divine mind, one might also suppose that 
to make a star issue at the appointed time constitutes a part 
of the hidden knowledge to which man is not wise enough 
to attain. 

III. In 2 Kings xxiii. 5 mention is made of those who 
burned incense ' to the sun, to the moon, to mazzaloth, and 
to all the host of heaven.' Here mazzaloth is placed after 
the sun and the moon, but, along with them, is distinguished 
from ' all the host of heaven.' The most natural and most 
probable supposition is that mazzaloth is the most brilliant 
star in the sky after the sun and moon, and that like them it 
Was separated by a long interval from the other stars. Thus 
we are inevitably led to Venus, which is the only star, after 
the sun and moon, capable of producing shade. 

70. To all this must be added that the mention of the 

were at first considered in Babylonia to be two different stars can be 
proved from a considerable number of monuments. The same can also 
be shown of the most ancient Egyptians ; and with regard to the Greeks, 
the tradition exists that Pythagoras was the first to recognize that 
Lucifer and Hesperus were one and the same star. 

G 2 

84 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

three stars (the sun, the moon, and mazzarolh), considered 
separately as the three principal stars of heaven, has its 
special significance in a form of worship that came to the 
Jews from beyond the Euphrates and was probably intro- 
duced along with the Assyrian invasion. As a matter of 
fact, the sun, the moon, and Venus, occupied a pre-eminent 
position in the Pantheon of the nations of Mesopotamia. In 
many and many a sculpture exhumed from the excavations 
made in Assyria and in Babylonia, and especially where any 
idea connected with religion appears, a triad of stars is found 
designed (symbolizing, no doubt, the corresponding deities),, 
each of which has its own peculiar shape, identically repeated 
everywhere with the same type. These stars are the sun, 
the moon, and Venus, and their shapes are as they are given 

Fig. 5. Sin (Moon). bamas (Sun). IStar (Venus). 

These three shapes occur frequently beside the portraits 
which we possess of the Assyrian kings, sculptured in bas- 
relief 1 ; and they stand before them in the host of symbols of 
their protecting deities. The same shapes are also found on 
the figured reliefs which we possess of the Babylonian 

1 See the portraits in bas-relief of Asshumazirpal (884-860 B.C.), of 
his son Shalraanezer II (859-825 B.C.), and of his grandson Samsi- 
Adad IV (824-811 B.C.), reproduced in the Transactions of Soc. Bibl' 
Archaeol. vol. v. pp. 224, 278, vol. vi. p. 88. See also the bas-relief of 
Esarhaddon, found in the excavations at Zenji rli in Cilicia and now 
preserved in the Berlin Museum. On the Assyrian monuments, the 
figure representing the sun is a little different from that on the Baby- 
lonian monuments which is reproduced above. 

Mazzaroth 85 

kings \ And they occur finally in another class of monu- 
ments which is much more numerous: that is to say, on 
certain stelae or upright stones which were placed in the fields 
as boundary marks (according to a view held by many), 
or rather as public titles of property, titles that were inviolable 
and whose removal was accompanied by the most terrible 
maledictions, as the inscriptions on the pillars themselves 
show. These monuments, a great many of which must have 
existed, as about thirty of them have already been dis- 
covered, bear an illustrated scene or representation which 
displays in the most conspicuous place the three symbols of 
the sun, the moon, and Venus, as described above, arranged 
for the most part in the following order, — the first place 
is given to the moon, the second to the sun, the third to 

71. The supposition would not therefore be far-fetched 
that in the Temple at Jerusalem, Ahaz or one of his suc- 
cessors might have erected a monument analogous to those 
described above. Then the ' host of heaven/ to which the 
Biblical writer alludes in 2 Kings, would not be absent 
either. In fact, on the boundary pillars or titles of property 
of which we have spoken above, after the three symbols 
of the sun, the moon, and Venus (or round about them, 
when the representation is circular in shape), a whole crowd 
of strange figures invariably stand designed. Among them 
can be distinguished a large snake, a scorpion, fantastic and 
monstrous animals sometimes wearing a terrifying expres- 
sion, a winged centaur in the act of shooting, a goat with 
a fish's tail; further, various emblems of a more simple 

1 For instance, on the pillar of Nebuchadnezzar I (abont 11 30 B.C.), 
reproduced in Rawlinson, Cuneif. Inscript. of Western Asia, V. tab. 57. 
Also on the stone of Nabupaliddina (about 860 B.C.), found by Rassam 
in the ruins of Sippara and often published, e.g. by Hommel, Gesch. 
Babyl. u. Assyr. p. 597. 

86 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

character, such as altars with tiaras or points of lances above 
them, a lamp, an arrow, a staff, and other objects, which are 
hard to explain, but are found sculptured in greater or 
less number on each monument. About forty figures are 

Fig. 6. The sun, the moon, Venus, and the Host of Heaven, 
on a Babylonian monument of the twelfth century B.C. 

known up to the present, some of which are repeated with 
greater frequency, others more rarely. 

72. Clear evidence as to the subject of these figures is 
given in some of the inscriptions which usually accompany 
them 1 : they are nothing else but emblems or symbols of 

1 On a pillar of this kind belonging to the reign of Mardukbaliddina I 
(about 1 1 70 B.C.) it is said, if any one remove it from its place, 
conceal it, or destroy it, ' May the gods Ann, Bel, and Ea, Ninip and 
Cula, and all the deities whose emblems are seen on this stone tablet^ 
violently destroy his name : may a terrible malediction fall upon him,' 

Mazzaroth 87 

divinity or of supernatural beings, to whose protection the 
permanence and preservation of the monument was com- 
mended. Not, however, of divinities of any kind indifferently. 
If in fact we observe these figures carefully, we see that some 
of them have a more or less complete resemblance to 
certain figures representing constellations of the Greek 
sphere, and a still greater resemblance sometimes with the 
sphere as conceived by the ancient astrologers, the so-called 
barbarian sphere : thus the identity is occasionally complete, 
as between the Babylonian scorpion and the scorpion of our 
zodiac, between the goat with a fish's tail of the Babylonian 
pillar and our Capricorn, between the winged shooting 
centaur of the Babylonians and the archer of the barbarian 
sphere and of the Egyptian zodiacal sculptures 1 . Hence 
some Assyriologists 2 have wished to recognize in these figures 
a series of zodiacal signs or of other constellations belonging 
to the Babylonian sphere. That an astronomical character 
is to be discovered in them seems probable, not only on 

&c. (G. Smith, Assyrian Discoveries, ed. 2, p. 241). On another, 
belonging to the reign of Marduknadinachi (about n 15 B.C.) the 
corresponding curse is expressed as follows : ' May the deities whose 
images are on this stone and whose name is invoked persecute him 
with irrevocable maledictions ' (Oppert, in Records of the Past t vol. ix. 
p. 101). 

1 On this and other resemblances see the recent important work 
of F. Boll, called Sphaera, pp. 181-94 : on the Babylonian astronomical 
works of the class described above, see the same work, pp. 198-208, 
besides that of Hommel cited in the following line. 

2 So Hommel (Aufsatze und Abhandlungen, pp. 236-68), whose 
conclusions, however, can hardly stand criticism. On the other hand, 
Morris Jastrow {Relig. Baby I. u. Assyr. p. 192) not only rejects them, 
but falls into the opposite extreme and denies emphatically that the 
relations between the divinities of the Babylonian Pantheon and their 
pictured emblems depend on principles or facts of astronomy or astrology. 
Perhaps the truth lies between them. We can admit some connexion 
of these emblems with celestial phenomena ; only we are not in a position 
to indicate the nature of this connexion. 

88 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

account of the coincidences just mentioned, but also because, 
the symbols of the moon, the sun, and Venus, are, as has 
been said, always present on these monuments. I believe 
myself that it cannot be wrong to consider them as emblems 
or material representations of the divinities of heaven, since 
there were bound to be such divinities; including in this, 
number the divinities of the planets and the good and bad 
spirits with which Babylonian theology associated the stars 
and constellations of the firmament. These are the ' angels 
of the hosts of heaven,' over which Marduk reigned, according 
to the hymn cited above (§ 33); this is the ' host of heaven' 
named by Nebuchadnezzar in his large inscription, and the 
worship of which at Jerusalem caused so much horror to 
the prophets of Israel. 

73. As we have seen, the Biblical expression (2 Kings 
xxiii. 5) about those who adored 'the sun, the moon, 
mazzaroth) and all the host of heaven/ is found graphically 
illustrated by the monuments here described, in the most 
complete and unexpected manner. Sun, moon, and maz- 
zaroth are distinguished in this Biblical passage by being 
named specially and in the first place : on the monuments 
they are distinguished by their place of precedence when the 
figures form a line, or by occupying the central position 
when the figures are distributed over a circular or oval 
space. As for the remaining multitude, l the host of heaven/ 
it would be of profound interest to examine the various 
classes into which they were probably divided, and their 
hierarchy. But this is not a subject to be treated briefly, 
or in this place : its relations are not so much with the 
astronomy of the Bible as with the mythology and urano- 
graphy of the Babylonians ■. 

1 Instructive enough drawings of the Babylonian monuments belong- 
ing to the class here considered can be found in well-known works* 
There is one in the second edition of G. Smith's Assyrian 

Mazzaroth 89 

Discoveries, showing the stela of Mardukbaliddina I (about 1170 B.C.), 
which was cited on page 86. Another, referring to the reign of 
Marduknadinachi (about 1115 B - c ) ^ s to be seen represented in lateral 
perspective in Bezold, Ninive und Babylon, p. 52. Reduced to circular 
projection, it has been published by Lenormant, Histoire de T Orient 
(ed. 9, continued by Babelon, vol. v. p. 183). Thus reduced, it appears as 
in our Figure 6 above. Here the three symbols of the moon, the sun, and 
Venus, occupy the convex top of the monument, which is at the same 
time the centre of the surface covered by figures. The same is the case 
with the so-called 'Michaux stone* preserved in the Bibliotheque 
Nationale at Paris, which has been often reproduced during the last 
century, and, recently again, in the work by Lenormant to which we 
have referred, in Hommel's Gesch. Baby/, u. Assyr. p. 74 [and in 
Maspero's Dawn of Civilisation, pp. 762-3]. To the same category 
belongs also the fine relief of Nebuchadnezzar I, the figures of which 
may be seen excellently reproduced in Bezold, Ninive und Babylon, 

P. 49- 



The evening at a certain point of twilight regarded as the beginning of 
day. — 'Between the two evenings/ — Divisions of the night and 
of the natural day. — The so-called sundial of Ahaz. — No mention 
of hours in the Old Testament. — The Aramaic ska* ah. 

74. There can be no doubt that the Jews placed the 
beginning of the civil day or nychlhemeron in the evening, 
nearly in the manner which was usual among the Italians 
a hundred years ago, and is still adopted by the whole 
Mohammedan world. In fact, Genesis, after relating the 
works completed by God on the first day of creation, 
concludes thus : ' And the evening and the morning were 
the first day.* The same is repeated regularly for all the 
days of creation. The evening was therefore understood to 
precede the day. A still more convincing piece of evidence 
is to be drawn from 17, where the words are: 'At 
evening and at morning and at midday will I complain and 
moan,' &c. Here the evening precedes both morning and 
midday. All festivals of the Jews, which were so arranged 
as to be obliged to last through one or more entire days, 
began with evening and ended with evening. So the repose 
of the sabbath lasted from the evening of one day down 
to the evening of the following day. The same is to be said 
of the Day of Atonement *, which was observed in the seventh 
month, lasting from the evening of the ninth day to the 
evening of the tenth; and of the Feast of Unleavened 

1 Yom hakkippurirn. See Lev. xxiii. 32. 

The Day and its Division 91 

Bread, which began with the fourteenth day of the first 
month at evening, and ended with the twenty-first day at 
evening \ It may be added that the Jewish community still 
commence their ritual day in the evening 2 . 

75. This habit of commencing the civil day or nychthemeron 
with evening was originally practised by those peoples who 
adopted the rule of taking for the beginning of their month 
the moment at which the new moon first became visible 
to them in the evening twilight. As Ideler justly remarks 
on this subject 8 , there is a certain connexion between the 
two things ; it was, in fact, natural to commence to count 
the first day of the month from the same instant as that 
at which the month itself was supposed to begin, and it is 
easy to see what inconveniences the custom would have 
caused of commencing the month at one moment and the 
first day of the month at another. Now the Jews, as we 
shall see, were in the habit at every period of their history of 
counting the months from the instant when the luminous 
crescent of the moon began to become visible after its 
conjunction with the sun; that is to say, from the instant 
of the visible new moon. The practice of commencing the 
day with evening was deduced from this as a consequence, 
by the Jews as well as by other peoples, among whom the 
Greeks are to be included. 

76. The Hebrew word for the evening is *ereb, from the 
root 'arab meaning niger fuii 4 ; it alludes, therefore, to the 

1 Exod. xii. 18. 

2 Ideler, Handbuch der mcUhematischen und techniscken Chronologic, 

3 Ideler, op. cit. i. 482. 

* So Gesenius, Thes. 1064. But the verb *arab in the sense niger fuit 
is not found in the Old Testament. It seems difficult, however, not to 
admit a connexion between the Hebrew *ereb and the ereb Samsi of the 
Assyrio-Babylonian inscriptions, which means ' setting of the sun ' 
(literally ' entry of the sun ' below the horizon — from erebu, to enter). 

92 Astronomy tn the Old Testament 

gradual darkening of the atmosphere after the sun has set. 
Like the name sera (evening) in Italian, it was generally 
used in a somewhat indeterminate sense, including both 
the last part of the clear day and the beginning of darkness. 
What was the moment of evening which constituted the 
end of one nychthemeron and the beginning of the next 
nychthemeron ? 

There can be no doubt as to the answer. Among those 
peoples who marked the beginning of the month by the 
moment when in the dusk at evening there appeared towards 
the west the faint crescent of the new moon, the beginning 
of the day could be only that phase of evening twilight when 
the observation of the crescent became possible. This phase 
could not be the setting of the sun, because the lunar crescent 
could not yet be visible in full daylight; and neither was 
it the end of twilight and the beginning of the complete 
darkness of night, because the most brilliant stars and the 
planets are wont to become visible a good while before the 
sky is completely blackened; how much more the lunar 
crescent 1 That crescent is accustomed to appear at an inters 
mediate moment, when the stars are not yet seen, though the 
light of dusk has already much diminished. Experience 
shows this moment of first visibility to depend on several 
circumstances, which vary from one new moon to another l ; 
but it can be defined in a general and approximate manner 
by saying that the crescent is accustomed to appear when 
the sun has sunk about six degrees below the horizon. In 
the latitude of Palestine this may be said to happen, taking 
one time with another, half an hour after sunset, and one com- 
plete hour before twilight is ended and the complete darkness 

1 The chief among these are the angular distance of the moon from 
the sun at the moment of observation, the height of the moon above the 
horizon, the moon's distance from the earth, the degree of clearness of 
the atmosphere. 

The Day and its Division 93 

of night begins. Accordingly, on the evenings of a new 
moon the duration of twilight from the moment of the 
crescent's appearance is divided into two unequal parts, 
which the Jews called ' the two evenings/ or in Hebrew 
'arbayim. The first evening formed an interval of about 
half an hour, during which, as it was still sufficiently light 
to be considered as a continuation and part of the preceding 
day, the common occupations of the day could be attended 
to ; that interval, in fact, which we call the ' twilight of the 
civil day V The second evening lasted nearly an hour ; its be- 
ginning marked the beginning of the following nychthemeron\ 
its end was at the commencement of the complete darkness 
of night ; when it began, the lamps were lighted, an action 
which ushered in the period of night. In the Pentateuch we 
find use made several times of the expression ben ha'arbayim 
(' between the two evenings ') 2 to indicate the moment which 
Separated the two periods described above, and marked for 
the Jews the beginning of the civil and religious day. Of 
special interest is the passage in Exod. xxx. 8, where Aaron 
is spoken of as lighting the lamps of the tabernacle * between 
the two evenings'; it is decisive on the meaning of the 
expression bin ha'arbayim (which has been much discussed 3 ), 
and shows clearly that what is indicated by it is the moment 
of evening twilight when the natural light became insufficient 
and it was necessary to resort to artificial light 4 . One 

1 The twilight of the civil day is assumed to commence at sunset and 
to end when the son attains a depth of 6-J° below the horizon. The 
average duration of this twilight in Palestine is about half an hour. 

8 Exod. xii. 6 ; xvi. 12 ; xxix. 39, 41 ; xxx. 8 ; Lev. xxiii. 5 ; Num. 
ix. 3, 5 ; xxviii. 4. 

3 Those who wish for information as to this discussion, can gain an 
idea of it from Ideler, op. cit. i. pp. 482-4 ; and from Gesenius, Thes. 
pp. 1064-5. The question was important for determining the right 
moment at which the Paschal lamb had to be sacrificed and the week 
of unleavened bread begun. 

* This method, therefore, was analogous to the old Italian custom of 

94 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

certainly cannot suppose that Aaron lighted the lamps 
with the sun still on the horizon, nor yet that he waited 
to light them till it was altogether impossible to see any 

77. The night was called layil or laylah by the Jews, 
a word of uncertain derivation. Its duration was divided 
by the Jews, after the example of the Babylonians \ into 
three ' guards ' or * watches,' while the Greeks and Romans 
divided it into four. The first was called 'the evening 
watch ' or ' the beginning of the watches ' ; the second, ' the 
midnight watch '; the third, ' the morning watch V The ' half 
of the night ' (or ' midnight ') is also found named in the Old 
Testament 3 . 

78. The morning in the broad sense is generally indicated 
by boqer, which is also applied in a more particular sense to 
the first light. The twilight (nesheph) of the morning bears 
the further title shahar> equivalent to dawn. The Jews had 
two dawns, as they had two evenings ; the two dawns were 
separated by an intermediate phase of the morning twilight, 
bin shaharayim \ 

beginning the nyehthemeron half an hour after sunset, at the moment 
when the twilight of the civil day was closed. Ideler, op. eit. i. 83. 

1 The three watches of the Babylonians were given precisely the same 
titles as the Jews nsed : the first watch, the midnight watch, the 
morning watch. All three are fonnd named together on a small tablet 
in the British Mnseum, published in Rawlinson, Cuneiform Inscriptions 
of Western Asia, vol. iii. tab. 5a, no. 3 ; partly translated and 
explained by Sayce, Trans. Soc. Bibl. Archeol. iii. 151-60. 

2 The ' beginning of the watches ' is found named in Lam. ii. 19 ; the 
midnight watch in Judges vii. 16; the morning watch in Exod. xiv. 24 
and 1 Sam. xi. 11. 

8 H&tsi hallaylah, Exod. xii. 29, Judges xvi. 3. 

1 Shaharayim is not, however, found used in this sense in the Old 
Testament, but only as a proper name, 1 Chron. viii. 8. None the less, 
this dual form suffices to prove that ' two dawns ' were distinguished as 
parts of the morning twilight, even though little practical use may have 
been made of the distinction. 

The Day and its Division 95 

79. The word_jww, like its equivalent in Italian gt'ornq 
(day), was used to indicate both the whole nychthemeron 
and also the illuminated part of it only, that is to say, the 
natural day. The one common division of the natural day is 
given by midday, isohorayim, a word derived from Isahar, 
which probably signified splenduii, luxii (in Arabic, ' to 
appear'). It is the dual of Isohar, light. So then fsohtirayim 
would be equivalent to saying ' double light/ and would be 
a way of expressing the greatest light of the day. Ewald 1 
is, however, of opinion that this dual ought to be classed with 
the two evenings and two dawns of which we have already 
spoken; tsohtirayim would in that case mean two parts of 
the day, those which immediately precede and follow the 
point of midday. The duration of these two parts cannot 
be assigned, as they are not limited by any special natural 

80. But the division of the day into two parts only is 
insufficient for practical purposes. Consequently, the Jews 
aided themselves by other designations arrived at indirectly. 
We find, first, the two moments mentioned, before and after 
midday, at which the sacrifice called minhah 2 was accustomed 
to be offered in the Temple. How far they were from 
midday cannot be determined. — Other indications of the 

1 Ewald, Antiquities of Israel, Eng. tr. f p. 340. Ewald's opinion 
seems to be confirmed by the phrase bethoch tsohSrayim (' in the midst 
of the two lights '), which would allude to two consecutive intervals of 
greatest light (Isa. xvi. 3). 

* Diodati translates this offerta di fanatic a (R.V. 'meal-offering'). 
It consisted of flour, hominy, or meal, seasoned with oil and salt. 
An allusion is made to the time of morning sacrifice in 2 Kings iii. 
20, which shows that it was made very early : to the time of evening 
sacrifice in 1 Kings xviii. 29 and 36, whence we infer that a considerable 
period of daylight remained available after it. In the service of the 
second Temple, according to the directions in Exodus (xxix. 38-41), one 
of the sacrifices was to be made in the morning, the other ' between the 
two evenings.' 

§6 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

Same kind are : ' in the heat of the day * or ' in the heat of 
the sun l ' ; ' tke declining of the day 2 ' ; * the approach 
of evening 3 ' ; * the time of taking food V That this simple 
way of describing the periods of the day can suffice during 
a long time for a pastoral and agricultural people is proved 
by our own experience of every day. Even in a more 
cultivated society the majority of men live without clocks, 
and contrive by hook or crook to fix the time for themselves 
with such precision as is sufficient for their wants. In 
Country districts quite simple persons are to be found who 
watch the sun and know how to mark the time at every 
stage by this method, without blundering by more than 
twenty or thirty minutes. 

But the idea of hours , that is to say, of a regular division 
of the day into equal parts, seems to have been unknown 
to the Jews till some time after the exile ; it is certain at any 
rate that the corresponding word is not found in the Hebrew 
of the Old Testament, and only begins to appear in the 
dialects used in Palestine after Hebrew ceased to be the 
spoken language of ordinary life, — dialects belonging to 
the Aramaic branch of the Semitic languages. This con- 
sideration leads us to consider the question of Ahaz's so- 
called sundial, which would seem to have been placed in 
the royal palace at Jerusalem by order of that king about 
730 B.C. 

81. It is narrated in the Second Book of Kings 5 that, 
when Hezekiah king of Judah wished for a sign of the 
speedy recovery promised to him by Isaiah, ' Isaiah said : 
Let this be to thee a sign from Yahwe that He will do the 
thing that He hath spoken. Shall the shadow go forward 
ten ma'aloth, or go back ten ma'dloth ? And Hezekiah said : 

1 Gen. xviii. 1 ; 1 Sam. xi. 9 ; 2 Sam. iv. 5. 

a Judges xix. 8. s Deut. xxiii. 1 1. 

* Ruth ii. 14. 8 2 Kings xx. 9-1 l. 

The Day and its Division 97 

It is easy for the shadow to go down ten mdaloth [further], 
but not that the shadow return back ten mdaloth. And 
Isaiah the prophet cried unto Yahwe, and He made the 
shadow return by as many mdaloth as it had gone down on 
the mdaloth of Ahaz, namely, ten mdaloth back/ The same 
incident is related rather more shortly in the historical 
section of the prophecies of Isaiah *, where the prophet says 
to Hezekiah : ' And let this be the sign to thee. . . . Behold, 
I will make the shadow return by as many mdaloth as it has 
gone down on the md&lolh of Ahaz with the sun, namely, ten 
mdaloth back. And the sun returned ten mdaloth back, as 
many mdaloth as it had gone down/ The interpretation 
of this passage presents a certain amount of obscurity, not 
only as to the sense to be attributed to the word mdaloth, 
but also because the same word is here found used in two 
somewhat different manners. It appears first as a simple 
plural expressing a certain number of the units, each one 
of which is called mdalah. In the second place it is 
employed to mean some construction arranged by Ahaz, 
which contained a number of the units mdalah exceed- 
ing ten ; along it a shadow glided while the sun advanced in 
its daily motion, and the whole is so arranged that Hezekiah 
could observe the displacement of the shadow while in a lying 
posture on his bed. 

82. The word mdalah almost always means a step on 
a staircase 2 : the plural mdaloth may also be understood of 
a flight of steps or staircase. We shall have accordingly to 
picture the matter to ourselves in this way: Ahaz, on 
the occasion of the new buildings arranged by him in the 

1 Isa. xxxviii. 8. 

3 Gesenius, The*, p. 103 1, where the passages of the Old Testament 
are given which confirm this interpretation. The few cases which seem to 
require another meaning are also cited in the same place, but it would 
not be suitable to dwell upon them here. 

sch. H 

98 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

Temple and the royal palace *, had caused a flight of steps 
to be made, which was called in consequence the mdaloth, or 
steps, of Ahaz. The shadow of some higher part of the rest 
of the edifice projected over these steps; this shadow, 
gliding from step to step, was continuing to descend at the 
hour of the day when the prodigy occurred. It is not 
impossible that these steps were used by some as points of 
reference for guiding themselves as to time ; this is a natural 
proceeding, and analogous practices have been adopted at all 
times and places. However that may be, the miracle, as 
understood by the writer, was this: after the shadow had 
gone down the ten steps, it mounted them all again, at the 
command of Isaiah. The second of me two narratives which 
have been quoted would further imply a retrogression of the 
sun ; the first narrative does not clearly imply this prodigy, 
which would be equal to or even greater than that of which 
Joshua has the credit. 

83. The most ancient interpreters have understood the 
matter in the way here explained: so the LXX and the 
Syriac version. But Symmachus, m his Greek version of 
the second century a.d., and, later on, the Vulgate and the 
Targum (or interpretation by learned Jews), put another 
opinion into the field which is now almost universally received. 
According to this second way of looking at it, the mcCaloth of 
Ahaz are said to have been lines marking the hours on a 
solar quadrant, which Ahaz had caused to be placed in the 
palace at Jerusalem, each line constituting a maalah or step 
of progression of the shade. This sundial claims to have 
been imported from Babylonia, since the invention of the 
gnomon and the quadrant for marking hours are certified as 
existing among the Babylonians by the authority of Hero- 
dotus a . All this must be admitted to be possible. It is, in 
fact, probable that the invention of the sundial (as may be 
1 2 Kings xxiii. 12; xvi. 18. a Herod, ii. 109. 

The Day and its Division 99 

said with certainty of the division of the day into hours) is due 
to the Babylonians, even though none has as yet been found 
in the Mesopotamian ruins. And king Ahaz, who seems to 
have been exceedingly fond of foreign customs, might well 
have caused a sundial to be placed in his palace by some 
Babylonian or Syrian or Phoenician astronomer. But it has 
already been remarked that not the slightest hint is given in 
the Old Testament of regular divisions of the day, either at 
the time of Ahaz or later. Again, the distant and imperfect 
resemblance which lines for marking hours can have with the 
steps of a staircase does not seem to me sufficient to justify the 
abandonment of the interpretation given by the LXX, which 
adapts itself so exactly and so naturally to the actual words 
df the Hebrew text \ 

84. The regular division of the day into equal portions 
was practised at Babylon long before the exile of the Jews. 
The fragments of Babylonian astronomy which have been 
unearthed at Nineveh prove that the custom there was to 
divide the nychthemeron into twelve kaspu, each of which 
corresponded to two of our equinoctial hours 2 . It would 

1 The steps of Ahaz and his so called sundial have given rise to a 
whole literature, from which curious and eccentric ideas are not absent. 
A collection of these may be found in Winer's Bibl. Rcalworterbuck, i. 
498-9. Most remarkable of all appears to me to be a problem of 
gnomonics, in which it is proposed to determine how and when and in 
what places on the earth the shadow projected by a gnomon on a plane 
perpendicular to it, after having revolved for a certain part of the day 
round about the foot of the gnomon in a given direction, may remain 
stationary for a moment, and then revolve in the opposite direction, 
returning upon its course. We leave to the reader the whole 
pleasure of resolving proprio Marte this none too difficult problem, and 
of seeing how it would be possible to reproduce in a certain sense the 
reported miracle of the retrogression of the shadow on the supposed 
quadrant of Ahaz. 

* * On the sixth day of the month Nisannu the day and the night 
balanced each other : six kaspu of day and six kaspu of night/ This im- 
portant observation is to be found in Rawlinson's Cuneiform Inscriptions 

H 2 

ioo Astronomy in the Old Testament 

consequently not be unlikely that the Jews, when they came 
in contact with the Babylonians in the exile, should have 
learned from them, along with other things, the habit of 
dividing the time of day with greater precision than had been 
their previous practice. They could have borrowed it from 
the Egyptians even long before this : for we know of the 
Egyptians that, as early as the date of the Pyramids, they 
were acquainted with the division of the natural day into 
twelve equal portions and of the night into as many l . But 
it is impossible to find any proof of this in the books of the 
Old Testament. It is true that in the Book of Daniel there 
is found repeated several times the word shdah or shddthah, 
which the LXX translate by &pa and the Vulgate by hora 2 . 
We notice, however, that this word occurs only in the 
Aramaic part of the text of Daniel, the original Hebrew of 
which is lost ; we do not know what word corresponded to 
it in the Hebrew. Further, the meaning of shdah or 
shddthah in these passages does not seem to imply hours 
truly and properly so called, that is to say, measures of time ; 
it ought rather to be taken in the sense of moment or point 
of time, as is done among ourselves when we use such 
expressions as a quest or a (' at this hour of the day '), in 
mat or a ('in an evil hour'), alt ora (' the very hour'), and so 
on. The &pa in the LXX and the hora of the Vulgate are 
certainly to be understood thus 3 . At what date the use of 

of Western Asia, vol. iii. tab. 51, no. 1 ; translated by Sayce in Trans. Soc. 
Bibl. Archaeol. iii. 229. Unfortunately the year in which the equinox 
was observed is not given. 

1 Brugsch, Die Aegyptologie , pp. 364-5. 

* Dan. iii. 6, 15 ; iv. 33; v. 5. 

5 See Gesenius, Thes. pp. 1455-6. In all the passages cited the word 
stands in the connexion bah shddthah^ for which we could well say, * the 
same moment.' It may be added that the LXX and the Vulgate use 
&pa and hora in places in the Old Testament where the Hebrew has *eth, 
which is, strictly speaking, equivalent to fccup6s or tempus : -e.g. Josh. xi. 

The Day and its Division 101 

hours began to be disseminated among the Jews, it is no 
longer possible to show. It is certain that in the times of 
Christ they had adopted for the night the four watches of the 
Romans 1 , and that they divided the interval between the 
rising and setting of the sun into twelve equal parts, after the 
example of the Greeks. These were the ' temporary hours,' 
varying in duration according to the seasons, which were 
numbered as first, second, third . . . down to the twelfth 2 . 
Dante in the Divina Commedia still counts time according 
to hours of this kind. At the present time they are reserved 
for the liturgical purposes of the Church. 

6; I Sam. ix. 16. There is reason to believe that the word for hour, 
under the form shed, which differs little from shc£athah> was in use 
among the northern Syrians as early as the fifteenth century B.C. But 
there is no proof of this as regards the Jews, who, for that matter, had 
not yet entered the land of Canaan at that time. See Winckler, Die 
Thontafeln von Tell el-Amarna, Lett. 91, 1. 77. 
1 Matt. xiv. 25. 2 Matt, xxvii. 45. 

104 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

Amos 1 . In the second Temple the new moon was cele- 
brated with special sacrifices, as can be seen from the twenty- 
eighth chapter of Numbers. The problem of determining the 
new moon continued to assume greater importance as time went 
On, and it is not impossible that, from after the exile down 
to the institution of a regular calendar, the doctors and heads 
of the Synagogue made use in some way of the procedure 
adopted by the Babylonians and the Syrians. 

87. At different epochs of their history the Israelites used 
different systems of months, one after the other, and some- 
times more than one at the same time. It is unknown what 
names they used for the months, before they conquered the 
land of Canaan. After the conquest they adopted the 
Canaanite names, down to the epoch of Solomon and the 
foundation of the first Temple. But the Canaanite names 
and the order of the Canaanite months were abolished when, 
at the building of the Temple, a more regular and more 
strictly national form was given to the system of worship. 
Then the months began to be described by numerical names in 
their order, without any special designations ; and for religious 
purposes this use lasted till the destruction of Jerusalem by 
Titus. But immediately after the return from the exile 
under Zerubbabel, we already find the Babylonian names 
adopted in civil use : after the destruction of the second 
Temple these latter ended by gaining the upper hand in 
religious use also, and they continue down to the present 
day to be exclusively employed in the Synagogue. We may 
now examine with somewhat greater precision the series of 
these changes. 

In the most ancient documents of the Jewish law which 
have reached us (that is to say, in the First Code and in 

1 Amos viii. 5 ; Hos. ii. 11 ; 2 Kings iv. 22 sqq. For later times see 
Isa. i. 13, 14; Ezek. xlv. 17; xlvi. 1, 3, 6; Num. x. 10; xxviii. 11- 
14; &c. 

The Jewish Months 105 

Exodus xxxiv, which is derived from the First Code 1 ), 
the month in which the feast of unleavened bread was cele- 
brated is called by the name Abtb\ this means month of 
the ears, and corresponded nearly to the month of April. 
Other ancient names of months are found in the minute 
account of the fabric and consecration of Solomon's Temple, 
which has been preserved in i Kings, and is probably taken 
from a narrative contemporary with the event. This account 
gives the correspondence of these names with the titles 
which came later into use. Four of them which are pre- 
served are set' out below, with the correspondence referred 

Ancient Equivalent «, in 

months. Ancient order. Later order. modern 0ld J TestammL 


Ethanim First month Seventh, month October i Kings viii. 2 

Bui Second „ Eighth „ November i Kings vi. 38 

Ablb Seventh „ First „ April Exod. xxiii. 15 

Ziv Eighth „ Second „ May 1 Kings vi. 1, 37 

Some further light has been recently thrown on the origin 
of these names. It was already thought by many that they 
were the regular names for the months among the inhabitants 
of the land of Canaan, with whom the Israelities had inter- 
mingled since the conquest, and from whom they had 
borrowed this use. This supposition has been brilliantly 
confirmed by the study of the Phoenician inscriptions, in 
three of which the month Bui has been recognized, and in 
two others the month Ethanim 2 . The older Jewish calendar 

1 Exod. xxiii. 15 and xxxiv. 18. From these ancient documents we 
must suppose the later notices in Deut. xvi. 1 and Exod. xii. 4 to be 

a See the complete collection of the Phoenician inscriptions quite 
recently published by Landau {Beitrdge zur Alterthumskunde des 
Orients, fasc. ii and iii). The name Bui is found in the long inscription 
of Eshmunazar, king of Sidon (Land. 5 ; Cooke, North Semitic Inscrip- 

106 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

was therefore identical with that of the Phoenicians, that is, 
of the Canaanites, to whom the Phoenicians were nearly 
related. It was also used in the Phoenician colonies, at 
Carthage, in Malta, and in Cyprus. 

88. As the close affinity between the Phoenician and 
Hebrew languages is known, it is even possible to speculate 
with some probability on the etymology of these names. It 
has already been said that the month Abib means the month 
1 of ears ' ; for the ears were already formed in Palestine in 
this month, though not entirely ripe \ Ziv means ' splendour 
of flowers/ a name well adapted to the corresponding month, 
which was nearly the same as our May, ihe JiorSal of the French 
Jacobin calendar 2 . The meaning of Ethanim is less clear; 
Gesenius and Ewald s would make it equivalent to ' continual 
waters'; perhaps because the autumnal rains supervene in 
October, and the watercourses commence to be refilled after 
the dryness of summer. Lastly, the abundance of rain in 
November is well represented by the name Bui, at least if 
this is rightly interpreted as meaning ' copious rain V 

89. These same Phoenician inscriptions, of which I have 
spoken just above, have already contributed, and will pro- 
bably contribute still more,, to our further knowledge of the 
Phoenician calendar, which is equivalent to saying the most 
ancient Jewish calendar. In inscriptions of Cyprus, of Malta, 
and of Carthage B , the month Marpeh is found, which may 

(ions, p. 31), and in two other inscriptions from Cyprus (Land. 15 and 
96 ; Cooke, pp. 55, 75). The name Ethanim is found in two inscriptions 
from Cyprus (Land. 91 and 103; Cooke, pp. 69, 89). 

1 A6t6 = ea.r: hodesh kaabtb = month of the ears. The month used 
also to be called Abib, without adding hodesh. 

2 Gesenius, Thes. p. 407. 

3 Gesenius, Thes. p. 644 ; Ewald, Antiquities of Israel (Eng. tr., 

P- 345). 

4 Gesenius, Thes. p. 560. 

5 Landau, 16, 183, aa8 (cf. Cooke, p. 58). 

The Jewish Months 107 

be interpreted as ' recovery Xf : perhaps this was the month 
when attention was paid to health and to the care of the body, 
as with us Italians in autumn, and men rested from the 
labours of agriculture and navigation. Four inscriptions 
found in Cyprus, and one found at Carthage, are dated by 
the month Pha'uloth *, the month of ' gains/ analogous per- 
haps to the Mercedonius of the Romans 8 . The name Karar 
seems to have been given to the hottest month of the year \ 
Some other names have been discovered, which are less easy 
to interpret: such are Marzeah or Mirzah, Mapha c , Hir, 
Zebah-shishim: so that the list i9 now almost complete 6 . 
Unfortunately, the Phoenician inscriptions, though they give 
these names of the months, do not give the means of knowing 
the order in which they were arranged : it has not, therefore, 
been possible to make use of them to complete the table 
given above. 

90. As has already been mentioned above, when, at the 
time of Solomon, the forms of worship were organized and 

1 From raphah = sanavit. 

3 Landau, 91, 94, 104, 105, 223 (cf. Cooke, pp. 69, 73, 83). 

3 Unless it ought to be explained as the month of ' business.' In this 
case one would have to suppose that some great meeting of business men 
took place during this month, like the fairs of Leipzig or of Senegallia. 

* Landau, 98 (Cooke, pp. 77, 144). Perhaps connected with the 
Assyrian garar, drought or heat. 

5 For these names see the publications of Landau, nos. 6, 18, 99, 105, 
and 180. For Marzeah and Mirzah see Jer. xvi. 5 and Amos vi. 7 : 
Gesenius, Thes. p. 1280; Cooke, pp. 95, 121 sqq., 303. It is not, 
however, quite certain that all the Phoenician months were in use 
among the Jews, and vice versa. In Phoenician inscriptions the 
names Abib and Ziv have not yet been found. On the other hand, 
the Phoenician name Zebah-shishim seems to allude to usages 
which were unknown among the ancient Jews. Further know- 
ledge on the relations between the Phoenician calendar and the 
earliest Jewish calendar will only be obtained through new epigraphical 
discoveries. See Cooke, pp. 40, 85; 78, 90, 127 (Hir or Hiyyar); 


108 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

amplified, the Phoenician or Canaanite names of months 
were abolished to make room for others. It is in fact 
natural to suppose that an attempt was made to separate 
from the service of the Temple all that could recall the 
abominations of the enemies of Israel and of Yahwe. The 
new names were simple numerical names, indicating the position 
which each month occupied in relation to the beginning of. 
the year. That beginning was now fixed at the new moon 
of the month formerly called Abib, which had hitherto been 
the seventh month, but now became the first : starting from 
this, they were counted as the second, third, fourth . . . down 
to the twelfth month 1 . The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua 
use this system exclusively, as is to be expected in books 
that are much later than the age of Solomon. They also 
project it into earlier times, not only as far back as Joshua 
and Moses, but even up to the flood, the chronology of 
which is arranged according to the numerical numbers of the 
months, as can be seen from the seventh and eighth chapters 
of Genesis. 

If, then, we set on one side the Pentateuch and the Book 
of Joshua, the earliest mention of these names is to be found 
in a notice preserved in Chronicles 2 , where the allusion is 
to some celebrated warriors of David : * These are of the 
children of Gad, heads of the host; the least was over 
a hundred, the greatest over a thousand: these were they 
who passed over Jordan in the first month, when it was 
swollen over all its banks/ &c. This account, if not of 

1 The Chinese too, throughout the long duration of their history, 
have always called the months by their numerical names. From 
a similar usage also, the Roman names Quinctilis, Sextilis, September, 
&c, are derived. The Egyptians used a mixed system in their writings : 
they divided the year into three seasons (inundation, winter, and summer), 
in each of which they counted the first, second, third, and fourth month. 
But in the spoken language they used special names for each month. 

2 i Chron. xii. 14, 15. 

The Jewish Months 109 

David's time, may date from the period in which the 
memorials of his reign were first put in writing, that is, from 
the age of Solomon. 

More certain as regards its date is the mention of the 
new numerical names made, together with the corresponding 
Canaanite names, by the author of the description of the 
Temple and of the festival of its inauguration, in i Kings \ 
This double nomenclature shows that in that writer's time 
both sets of names were still in use 2 . For it does not seem 
likely that the numerical names were added for the reader's 
convenience when the Canaanite months were altogether 
forgotten. However this may be, it is certain that not more 
than forty years after the consecration of the Temple the 
use of the numerical names was in full vigour. We have 
only to read another passage in i Kings 3 , how Jeroboam, 
after having established new forms of worship in the kingdom 
of Israel which he had created, * made a feast in the eighth 
month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that 
was celebrated in Judah . . . ; and he offered upon the altar 
which he had made in Bethel, on the fifteenth day, in the 
eighth month, in a month which he devised of his own heart.' 

From this time onwards the citations of the months are 

. more frequent, and are always given by the numerical names. 

A great sacrifice takes place in Jerusalem in the third 

1 1 Kings vi. I, 37, 38; viii. 2. In Chronicles, where the accounts 
of the building and consecration of the Temple are derived from 1 Kings, 
the Canaanite names of the months are removed and only the numerical 
names retained. This suppression removes much of the authority which 
the indications taken from Chronicles might have for the purposes of the 
present discussion. But even if no account be taken of these indications, 
enough remains, not to modify the conclusions we have given. 

3 In the same way and for the same reason the double nomenclature 
of the months which is found in Zechariah (numerical and Babylonian 
names) comes from the fact that the two systems of names were both 
used in his time. 

3 1 Kings xii. 32, 33. 

no Astronomy in the Old Testament 

month of the fifteenth year of Asa, king of Judah \ Hezekiah 
solemnly celebrates the Passover on the fourteenth day of the 
second month, in the first year of his reign 2 . Similarly 
Josiah celebrates a solemn Passover in the eighteenth year 
of his reign, on the fourteenth day of the first month 8 . 
The various dates concerning the destruction of Jerusalem 
by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., are all expressed by the 
numerical names of months 4 , as are those of the death of 
Gedaliah and of the liberation of Jehoiachin 5 . So again 
are the numerous dates contained in the prophecies of 
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, and in the Book of 
Ezra*, to say nothing of other later books, such as 
Chronicles, the Book of Judith, and the first Book of the 

91. But when at the time of the exile the nation found 
itself as it were lost in the midst of the Mesopotamian 
peoples, the names of the lunar months employed by those 
peoples also came into regular use among the Israelites 
with the same ease as had the Phoenician or Canaanite 
names many centuries before. Accordingly, as early as 
the prophecy of Zechariah (520 b.c) shortly after the 
return from exile, in the autobiographical memoirs of Ne- 
hemiah 7 (440 b.c), and in other later writings, for instance 

1 2 Chron. xv. 10. a 2 Chron. xxx. 2, 15. 

* 2 Chron. xxxv. 1. '2 Kings xxv. 1, 8. 

6 2 Kings xxv. 25, 27. 

e An apparent exception occurs in Ezra vi. 15, where the Babylonian 
name Adar is given, instead of saying the twelfth month. But it is to be 
noted that this exception falls in that part of the Book of Ezra which, 
the original Hebrew being wanting, has been supplied by an Aramaic 
version (from iv. 8 to vi. 18). It is probable that the original preserved 
the method used throughout the rest of the book, which is that of the 
numerical names. 

T In the Book of Nehemiah, his original memoirs extend from the 
beginning down to vii. 69, and are resumed from ch. xiii to the end. 
The rest is a narrative by another writer, who always uses the 

The Jewish Months in 

both the Books of the Maccabees and the Book of Esther, 
a new system of names for the months is seen appearing, 
which Jewish writers had not previously used. There was 
already reason to suppose that these names were Babylonian 
in origin: the question was placed beyond the reach of 
doubt by the recent discoveries of the Assyrio-Babylonian 
cuneiform inscriptions, through which it has been proved 
that the names are, with very slight modifications, those 
used in Babylonia and in lower Chaldaea from time imme- 
morial, which were further adopted by the Assyrians, and 
in great part also by the Aramaeans of northern Syria and 
western Mesopotamia. 

The relations between these different calendars are clearly 
set out in the following table, where the first column con- 
tains the numerical names of the months according to the 
Jewish use after the time of Solomon. The second column 
contains the new names which in the Old Testament appear 
for the first time with the prophet Zechariah : names which 
thenceforward always served and still serve in the religious 
calendar of the Jews. The third column gives the names 
of the Babylonian calendar, as it is found on numberless 
cuneiform inscriptions, Assyrian and Babylonian 1 . In the 
fourth column may be found the names of the lunar months 
of the Syrians, which were further adopted by the Seleucids 
in their official calendar, from 312 b.c onwards 2 . While, 
however, in the previous columns the first name is also that 
of the first month of the year, in the Syrian calendar the 

numerical names, like the author of the Book of Ezra, with whom he is 
perhaps identical. 

1 They are here transcribed from the list published by Prof. Sayce : 
Trans. Soc. Bill. Archaeol. iii. pp. 158-9. 

3 Taken from Ideler, Handb. d. Chronol. i. p. 430. The reference 
here is naturally to the lunisolar reckoning used by the Syrians before 
they adjusted their calendar to the Roman use and reduced it to a mere 
variant of the Julian calendar. 

ii2 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

first month of the year is the seventh on the list ; in other 
words, while the Jews and Babylonians began the year in 
spring with Nisan, the Syrians began it six months later 
in autumn with Tishri. In the last column are added the 
corresponding names of our calendar. As we are dealing 
with lunar months, which begin strictly with a new moon 
in each case, this correspondence can only be understood 
as roughly approximate. 








lonian names. 



First month 





Second „ 





Third „ 





Fourth „ 





Fifth „ 




August . , 

Sixth „ 





Seventh „ 



Tishri I 


Eighth „ 


Arah samna 

Tishri II 


Ninth „ 



Kanun I 


Tenth „ 



Kanun II 


Eleventh ,, 





Twelfth „ 





The intercalary month, which was necessarily added from 
time to time to prevent the year from deviating too much 
from the course of the sun, was put in the thirteenth place, 
after Adar, and called Veadar, which means Adar again 
(literally and Adar). 

The comparison of the second, third, and fourth columns, 
shows that the Jews borrowed their names for the months 
from the Babylonians, and not, as was for some time be- 
lieved, from the Syrians. The second and third columns 
are evidently almost identical, the most important difference 
being in the eighth position. The Babylonians, while as- 
signing a special name to each month, made an exception 
in the case of the eighth and called it simply arah samna, 

The Jewish Months 113 

which is equivalent in their language to 'eighth month/ 
In Hebrew this would have had to be translated yerah 
shemini. But no account was taken of its meaning, and 
by a simple phonetic corruption arah samna became trans- 
formed into Marheshvan \ 


Thus the Israelites, while preserving the order of the 
months, and without disturbing the ritual of their festivals, 
gradually accustomed themselves to the Babylonian names 
of the months, first in civil use, then later, after Titus, in 
religious use also : finally they consecrated those names in 
their Calendar, which has been used for fifteen centuries in 
all Synagogues. In this Calendar, however, the commence- 
ment of the year was placed in autumn and at the new moon 
which began the month Tishri. In consequence of this 
change the intercalary month Veadar came to occupy the 
seventh place in the year, whereas it formerly occupied the 

1 This transformation could be all the more easily admitted as in 
Assy rio- Babylonian the consonants m and v were represented in the same 
manner, whence the name of the eighth month could also be read arah 
savna, where the consonants do not differ at all from arheshvan. The 
addition of the initial m is perhaps not of Hebrew origin. As a matter 
of fact, we find on the celebrated trilingual inscription of Darius I at 
Behistun, under the Persian form Markazana, the name of a month 
which probably corresponded to arah samna and to Marheshvan. 
This correspondence is not, however, admitted by all scholars, and for 
the present it is best to leave the question undecided. 




Different commencements of the year at different epochs. — Determina- 
tion of the Paschal Month. — What the ancient Jews knew about 
the duration of the year. — Use of the octaetcris. — Astronomical 
schools in the Jewish communities of Babylonia. 

92. As the moon served to determine the months, so the 
sun determined the duration and succession of the years. 
The Jewish year was a solar year. It was not a conven- 
tional year like that of the ancient Egyptians, nor like that 
of the Mohammedans, because the Israelites made its deter- 
mination depend on the course of the seasons and on the 
recurrence of field labours, in the manner which will now be 
described. That they did so from the first times of the 
Mosaic legislation is proved by a passage in the First 
Code x , where they are told to observe ' the feast of ingather- 
ing at the end of the year ' : this festival it was the custom 
to celebrate in autumn after the last of all the produce, such 
as that of the vine and of the late fruits, had been gathered 
from the fields. In the same code we find further the feast 
of unleavened bread fixed in the month A did, that is, in the 
month of the ears : here we find the feasts and the months 
connected once more with the year of agrarian labour, 
and hence with the solar year. Again, the beginning and 
course of the months in this year were regulated by the 
phases of the moon : so that there can be no doubt that the 
calendar of the Jews was at all times lunisolar, like that of 

1 Exod. zxiii. 16. 

The Jewish Year 115 

the Babylonians, Syrians, and Greeks. In such a calculation 
the year began with that new moon which marked the 
beginning of the first month. But this beginning point was 
not always the same for the people of Israel at the different 
periods of their history. 

93. In the First Code, which represents the most ancient 
stage known to us of the Mosaic legislation \ the beginning 
of the year is placed in autumn, after the gathering was 
finished. ' Likewise observe the feast of harvest, of the first- 
fruits of thy labours, of that which thou hast sown in thy 
field ; and the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year^ 
when thou shalt have gathered in thy labours from the 

This ancient custom of beginning the year in autumn after 
the end of the field labours, was abolished at a date which 
we can now no longer fix with precision. The second Book 
of Samuel begins the story of the unfortunate Uriah by say- 
ing : ' It came to pass at the return of the year, at the time 
when the kings went forth, that David sent Joab and his 
servants with him and all Israel, and they laid waste the land 
of the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah V Here the ' going 

1 On the First Code, see the Introduction, § 10. 

8 Exod. xxiii. 16. The words ' at the end of the year' are represented 
in the Hebrew by bitseth hashshanah, where the word bZtseth is perfectly 
definite and means 'at the going out.* This command is repeated 
in the document (Exod. xxxiv. 10-26), which claims to be the text of 
the ten articles of the fundamental compact, concluded between Yahwe 
and Israel on Sinai and written (in one place, we are told, by God, 
in another, by Moses) on the two tables of stone preserved in the Ark. 
The second half of this document is only a somewhat altered copy 
of the last section of the First Code, Exod. xxiii. 12-19. Among the 
alterations occurs the change of bfrseth hashshanah (' at the end of the 
year') into t&kuphath hashshanah which Gesenius translates ad (post") 
decursum anni (see his Thes. p. 1208). This change was probably 
made when the beginning of the year had already been moved into 

8 2 Sam. xi. 1. The phrase c at the return of the year ' is represented 

I 2 

xi6 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

forth ' can only be understood of a warlike expedition. Now 
it is well known that in ancient Asia, as among ourselves at 
the present day, the customary time for going out to war was 
the spring : a large number of examples of this practice are 
found on the inscriptions of the warrior monarchs of Assyria '. 
The beginning of the year must therefore have fallen in 
spring at the date when these words in 2 Samuel were 
written. If we assume that the writer took them from docu- 
ments that were contemporaneous with the events or only 
slightly later, we should have a limit to which the custom 
of commencing the year with spring must go back, a limit 
which could not be much later than the reign of David, and 
in any case is not later than the reign of Solomon. 

On the occasion of a war between the kingdom of Israel 
and Benhadad king of Syria, Elijah says to king Ahab : ' Go 
and gather thy forces, consider and watch what thou doest : 
for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come upon 
thee 2 / We are here in the presence of a fact analogous 
to the one just quoted, and our conclusion from it must be 
the same. A third example of the same kind is found in 
2 Chronicles, referring to the time of Joash king of Judah : 
* And it came to pass at the return of the year that an army 
of the Syrians went up against him (Joash), and they came 

in the Hebrew by lithZshubath hashshanah, and in the LXX by imffrpi- 
tpavros rov hiavTov. The same expression is repeated in 1 Chron. xx. 1. 

1 I have examined the inscriptions of several of these monarchs who 
have left annals giving more details and in more regular form than the 
majority. Five of them (Asshurnazirpal, Shalmaneser II, Samsi-Adad IV, 
Sargon,and Asshurbanipal) have furnished me with eleven dates connected 
with the day and month when they quitted their residences (Nineveh, 
Calah, or Babylon) for distant warlike expeditions. Of these dates three 
belong to the month Airu ( = April to May), seven to the month Sivanu 
( = May to June), one to the month Abu ( = July to August). It will 
be seen that ten out of eleven dates belong to the spring. 

3 1 Kings xx. 23, 26. Here too we have lithZshubath hashshanah. 

The Jewish Year 117 

to Judah and Jerusalem/ &C. 1 In two other places in 
Chronicles 2 , mention is made of a solemn Passover cele- 
brated by Hezekiah in the second month, and of another 
solemn Passover celebrated by Josiah in the first month. As 
the Passover is inseparably connected with spring, it may be 
inferred from these two passages that the beginning of the 
year was in spring during the reign of Hezekiah and also of 

Lastly, an admirably clear indication of the beginning of 
the year in the closing period of the kingdom of Judah is 
found in Jeremiah 3 , where he relates that in the fifth year of 
Jehoiakim son of Josiah ' the king was sitting in his winter 
palace, in the ninth month, and a burning fire-pan was before 
him/ Now supposing that in Jeremiah's time the year began 
in spring with April, the ninth month came to an end in 
December or January, a date which thoroughly explains the 
king's residence in the winter palace and the burning fire-pan. 

94. These passages seem to prove satisfactorily that the 
custom of beginning the year in spring was not imported from 
Babylon after the destruction of the first Temple, but was 
certainly in vogue for some centuries before, and probably as 
early as the time of Solomon 4 . That this custom was in full 

1 2 Chron. xxiv. 23. The words here are tZkuphath hashshanak. 

a 2 Chron. xxx. 2, 15 ; xxxv. 1. 3 Jer. xxxvi. 22. 

4 Wellhausen {Prolegomena to the History of Israel, Eng. tr., p. 108) 
is of opinion that the year began with autumn throughout the period of 
the kings. ' Deuteronomy,' he says, ' was found in the eighteenth year 
of Josiah, and there was still time for the Passover to be celebrated in the 
same year, according to the regulations of that book: this is only 
possible if the beginning of the year be supposed to have fallen in 
autumn.' I may observe in the first place that the Passover was 
celebrated, not on the first day of the year, but on the fifteenth. 
Fourteen days were therefore available for reading the book and giving 
the directions necessary for a solemn and general Passover throughout 
the small kingdom of Judah. Further, from the eighteenth year of 
Josiah to the fifth year of Jehoiakim is an interval of seventeen or 

n8 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

vigour when the Jewish authors of the exile and of later 
times wrote, and that the Passover was understood by all 
to be fixed at the full moon of the first month and in the 
month of the early corn, is shown by a mere glance at 
the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, at the 
Books of Kings, at the Priestly Code, and at the Book of 
Joshua. The two last-named books not only follow this 
use for the times in which it was actually and systematically 
employed, but extend it by anticipation to the more ancient 
periods in which the beginning of the year is known by in- 
contestable evidence to have been placed in autumn. The 
tradition gradually formed itself that the rule for com- 
mencing the year from the Paschal moon had already been 
laid down by Moses, even before the Jews quitted Egypt, as 
may be seen in Exodus xii (certainly written some centuries 
after the event): 'This month (that of the exodus from 
Egypt) shall be for you the beginning of months, the first of 
the months of the year V 

95. We have expressed the opinion above, that the 
transference of the commencement of the year from autumn 
to spring was made in the time of Solomon. An argument 
in favour of this view may be derived from the fact that, just 
at this time, the forms of worship were arranged in a more 
orderly way, with a splendour and elaboration which were 
wholly new. The calculation of seasons was intimately 
bound up with religion. The change of the commencement 
of the year and the abolition of the Canaanite names of the 
months (effected, as has been shown in § 90, just at this 

eighteen years only, and it is certain, as has been shown above, that the 
latter year commenced in spring. One would have to suppose that 
a reform of the calendar was carried out during this interval in order to 
obey the new religious code. But in Deuteronomy as known to us 
there is certainly no mention of the point at which the year ought to 

1 Exod. xii. 2 j in manifest contradiction with xxiii. 16, and xxxiv. 22. 

The Jewish Year 119 

epoch) were probably parts of a new organization which was 
designed to make of the worship of Yahwe something ex- 
clusively national and absolutely distinct from the religions of 
the neighbouring peoples. 

For religious purposes the commencement of the year was 
kept in spring, at least till the destruction of the second 
Temple, and till the complete dispersion of the nation. Yet 
even as early as the period of Persian rule, the long contact 
with the Aramaic peoples, and later, the influence of the 
kingdom of Syria, led to the gradual introduction in civil 
use amongst the Jews also of the fashion of commencing the 
year, as the Syrians did, in autumn, so that they returned to 
the old rules borrowed from the Canaanites. 

When that happened, cannot be said exactly; but it is 
certain that the method of computing in this way for civil 
purposes is already found in the writings of Nehemiah, who 
acted as civil official of Artaxerxes I in Jerusalem \ The 
custom of commencing the beginning of the seventh month 
with the sound of the trumpet seems to show that the in- 
tention was to inaugurate the civil year in this manner. This 
custom is in fact unknown in the legislation earlier than the 
exile, and is found only in Leviticus (xxiii. 24) and Numbers 
(xxix. 1), which must be considered as having only been 
definitely redacted after the time of Nehemiah. We are led 

1 Nehemiah relates in his memoirs (Neh. i. 1) that, in the twentieth 
year of Artaxerxes, in the month Xislev, he learned from Hanani the 
wretched state of affairs in Jerusalem ; and that, after various incidents, 
in the month Nisan of the same twentieth year (ii. 1) he obtained 
permission from Artaxerxes to betake himself to Judah to procure 
a remedy. Now it is easy to see that, supposing the years were counted 
from the spring, beginning with Nisan, Nehemiah's dates would involve 
a contradiction. We must therefore suppose that Nehemiah began the 
year with Tishri, according to the civil use, just as the names of the 
months employed by him are those of the civil year. The procedure 
was suitable in the case of a civil official like Nehemiah. 

120 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

to the same conclusion by considering the manner in which 
the repose of the land in the sabbatical year is prescribed 
(Lev. xxv. 4) : ' In the seventh year there shall be a sabbath 
of rest for the land ; thou shalt not sow thy field in it, nor 
prune thy vineyard ; thou shalt not reap that which groweth 
of its own accord . . . and thou shalt not gather the grapes of 
the vine that thou hast not pruned : it shall be a year of rest 
for the land.' Here, as in the old law of the First Code 
(Exod. xxiii. 11, 12), it is clear that the reference is to the 
sowing, reaping, and vintage of one and the same agricultural 
year, and such a year could only begin in autumn. The 
same observation applies also to the Year of Jubilee, which 
was ordered to begin on the tenth day of the seventh month, 
in this case also with the sound of the trumpet (Lev. xxv. 
9-12), and lasted from the autumn of one year to the autumn 
of the next. However, the numbering of the months was 
always that of the religious year, which began in spring with 
the first month or with Nisan, at any rate so far as the 
periods covered by the Old Testament are concerned. But 
the habit of commencing the civil year in autumn with Tishri 
after the manner of the Syrians, continued to prevail more and 
more, and even lasted on under the Seleucids, under the 
Hasmoneans, and in the later Jewish schools; it ended by 
also prevailing in the religious calendar systematized by the 
Rabbis of the fourth century of the Christian era, a system 
which is still in use at the present day. 

96. It has already been indicated above how the year of 
the Israelites from the earliest times was regulated according 
to the course of the sun, so as to be renewed in a manner 
corresponding to the changes of the seasons (§ 92). We 
must now examine this point with somewhat greater precision, 
and show what position in the Jewish year was occupied by 
the festivals : since these festivals were of an agricultural 
character, and hence were inseparably bound up with the 

The Jewish Year 121 

changes of the atmosphere and with the annual course of 
the sun. 

In the first month, in the evening which concluded the 
fourteenth and began the fifteenth day, the moon being full 1 , 
the Passover was celebrated, and the festival continued for 
twenty-four hours, down to the evening of the following 
fifteenth day. With the fourteenth evening of the first 
month began also the seven days of unleavened bread, which 
lasted for seven days, down to the twentieth evening from 
that of the new moon. On whichever of the seven days 
fell after the sabbath, the offering of the 'omer ['sheaf'] 
was made 2 . A sheaf of new ears was presented as first- 
fruits, with the rites prescribed in Levit. xxiii. 10-13. 
Here we have the first connexion of the Jewish calendar with 
the seasons ; by this day, that is to say, falling after the first 
half of the first month, the ears of barley were supposed to be 
completely formed, or at any rate sufficiently formed, in so 
far as it was not necessary to have them completely ripe and 
dry. Barley begins to ripen in Palestine with the beginning 

1 It must not be forgotten that the new moon beginning the month 
coincided with the observation of the lunar crescent in the evening, which 
was one or two days later than the astronomical new moon, i.e. the 
actual geocentric conjunction of the moon with the sun. Hence the full 
moon took place more often on the fourteenth than on the fifteenth day. 

a The rnles given in the Pentateuch for the offering of the l omer are 
commonly understood as meaning that this offering was brought imme- 
diately after the Paschal day, i.e. on the sixteenth day of the first month. 
Josephus already takes this view, and almost all the Rabbinical writers. 
I have kept myself strictly to what is prescribed in Lev. xxiii. 11 and 15. 
The First Code and Deuteronomy give no regulation on the subject. 
They do not mention the offering of the 'onier, and Deuteronomy only 
orders fifty days to be counted, starting ' from the beginning of harvest/ 
to celebrate the feast of firstfruits at the end of them. The First Code 
seems to suppose that the feast of firstfruits ought to be celebrated after 
the harvest is finished. The ordinance of Leviticus (not too clearly 
expressed, as the discordant interpretations prove) belongs perhaps to 
a date later than the exile. 

122 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

of April, and in the lower and warmer parts the cutting is 
begun at the end of the same month. Hence we see that 
the first new moon, which began the first month and the 
Jewish year, could only take place in the last days of 
March at the earliest, and the sacrifice of the 'omer at 
the earliest only some days before the end of the first half 
of April. 

After this sacrifice it was permissible to begin reaping and 
living on the new grain. The cutting of the wheat fell some 
time after that of barley ; besides which, the dwellers in the 
colder climate of the higher ground were bound to be later ; 
the harvest was consequently not finally finished till the 
second half of May. There followed on the harvest the 
feast ' of the weeks/ the fixed date for which was seven 
weeks or forty-nine days after the day of the 'omer l : 
* From the day of the offering of the 'omer ye shall number 
seven complete weeks; unto the day after the seventh 
week ye shall count fifty days/ On the fiftieth day took 
place the offering ' of the Weeks ' and the festival of the 
harvest, which might be delayed, according to years and 
districts, as late as the end of June. Here is a second con- 
nexion which fixed the Jewish calendar in relation to the 
seasons. The fiftieth day from the offering of the 'omer, 
which fell in the first half of the third month (putting it 
generally, from the sixth to the thirteenth of the month), had 
to come to an end with the harvest completed. 

No other festivals, except the regular ones of sabbaths 
and new moons, occurred in the Jewish calendar till the 
seventh month. But on the first day of the seventh month 
there was celebrated with the sound of the trumpet the 
commemorative festival of teruah, or festival ' of joyful 
noise ' [R. V. * blowing of trumpets '] 2 . Some critics have 

1 Lev. xxiii. 14-16. 

3 Shabbathon zichron ttruah (Lev. xxiii. 24). The word ttru'ah is 

The Jewish Year 123 

wished to recognize in this the memory of the ancient custom 
of joyfully celebrating the beginning of the year with every 
kind of noise, when it fell in autumn and coincided with the 
vintage or followed it by only a short interval The corre- 
sponding festival at the beginning of the first month was 
never celebrated ; in the new system of months the beginning 
of the year was not marked by any special ceremony other 
than what was usual on all days of new moon. 

In the seventh month, exactly on the full moon or fifteenth 
of that month, the third of the great annual festivals began. 
This was anciently called the feast of Ingathering, and later 
the feast of Tabernacles. It lasted seven days, from the 
fifteenth to the twenty-first, and was celebrated as a thanks- 
giving after the gathering of grapes and olives had been 
finished. Its date regularly fell in our October, and at this 
time the harvests of field and vineyard were supposed to be 
finished: which gives us a third connexion between the 
Jewish calendar and the seasons and course of the sun. 

97. So then this calendar, both in its old Canaanite form 
and in the revised form now described, was inseparably 
connected with the course of the sun. But, to maintain it 
in order, it was not enough simply to count twelve moons in 
a year as the Mohammedans now do. It was necessary to 
intercalate a thirteenth moon from time to time. To find 
rules for making intercalation without deviating too far from 
the course of the sun and moon, was a problem which long 
exercised, as is well known, all the acumen of the Babylonian 
and Greek astronomers. The illustrious names of Harpalus, 
Cleostratus, Meton, Eudoxus, Calippus, Hipparchus, are 
connected with it, and its solution required an exact study of 
the solar and lunar periods. How did the learned in Israel 
solve this problem ? 

derived from ru' meaning vociferatus est, jubilavit, tuba cecinit, and is 
translated by /actus clamor (Gesenius, Thes. p. 1277). 

124 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

The Old Testament contains no notice which might serve 
to enlighten us on this point. The months are always 
counted as twelve, and there is never an allusion to an 
intercalary month. There are even indications which would 
seem to exclude its existence. In the Books of Chronicles * 
are registered the twelve divisions of the Jewish army which 
are said to have performed their turns of service in the time 
of David, each for a month ; the months are counted from 
one to twelve without any hint of an intercalary month, 
during which the service would have remained without 
provision. Similarly, twelve ministers are mentioned in 
i Kings 2 , each of whom had to provide for the maintenance 
of the household of Solomon during one month : here, too, 
no indication is given on whom the charge would fall, should 
a thirteenth month occur. These facts have induced some 
scholars to conclude that the Jewish months were not lunar 
months; but this hypothesis is contrary to the evidence of 
too many unmistakable passages. The very nature of 
circumstances makes it necessary for us to assume that 
from time to time the lunar periods of the year were counted 
as thirteen. ' Even if/ as Ideler says 3 , ' no passage in the 
Old Testament mentions an intercalary month, we must 
nevertheless believe in its existence; for it is absolutely 
necessary to add a thirteenth month from time to time to 
the twelve of the lunar year, if we do not wish the beginning 
of the year to go on being displaced and to recede gradually 
round the whole circle of the seasons.' To omit the inter- 
calation would produce a year like that used by the 
Mohammedans, whose beginning completes the circle of the 
seasons about three times in a century, and such a system 
would conflict with the fixed relation in which the Hebrew 

1 I Chron. xxvii. 1-15. 3 1 Kings iv. 7-20. 

3 Ideler, op. cit. i. 488-9. 

The Jewish Year 125 

months have been shown above to stand to the seasons and 
to the course of the sun. 

The proceeding adopted to prevent the months from 
deserting the corresponding seasons could only be of a very 
simple character. A probable allusion to it is perhaps to be 
found in Deuteronomy at the beginning of ch. xvi, where 
the words are : ' Observe the month of ears and offer the 
Passover to Yahwe/ Here the word * observe ' (in Hebrew 
shamor) means ' watch, pay attention/ As a matter of fact 
it was sufficient, in order fully to attain their object, to watch 
the progress of the months after blossoming time, when the 
ears began to be formed. It was then easy to determine, at 
the end of the twelfth lunar period of the preceding year, 
whether, if the new year began with the new moon following, 
the ears would be sufficiently ripe fifteen or twenty days 
later to make the offering of the 'omer. If this was so, 
the new year was made to begin at the next new moon; 
in the opposite case its commencement was deferred till the 
succeeding new moon. This method of fixing the beginning 
of the new year and the date of the Passover, though we 
should call it empirical and experimental, was quite 
appropriate to an essentially agricultural people, and it did 
not require them to trouble themselves with calculations 
about the course of the sun and of the moon. With this 
system, however, the determination of the beginning of the 
year came to depend not only on the connexion between 
the periods of the sun and of the moon, but also to a great 
extent on the meteorological condition of the preceding 
months and on the progress of the vegetation in each year ; 
which could not have failed to produce some irregularity 
in the distribution of the thirteenth or intercalary month. 
To sum up, — when the dates at which barley, wheat, and 
vines ripen in Palestine are considered, it may be maintained 
that as a rule the beginning of the year fell on the first, 

126 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

sometimes on the second new moon after the spring 
equinox ; this caused the Passover to fall from the first 
ten days of April to the first ten days of May, the feast 
of Weeks and the end of harvest from the last ten days of 
May to the last ten days of June, the feast of Ingathering 
for the most part within October. In the colder districts 
of Palestine the vintage takes place about the end of 
September \ When further, in spite of all precautions, the 
inclemency of the season was such as not to allow the 
offering of the new ears on the fifteenth day after the year 
had begun, there was still left open the permission to take 
advantage of a last and infallible expedient ; it was per- 
mitted, that is to say, to begin the Passover on the fourteenth 
day of the second month. Of this permission, if we are to 
believe the Chronicler, Hezekiah availed himself for the 
solemn Passover celebrated in the first year of his reign \ 

98. It remains for us to examine what knowledge the 
Jews had of the duration of the tropic year, that is, of that 
year which governs the return of the seasons. Some 
evidence on this subject is furnished by one of the writers 
in Genesis, where he assigns to the life of the patriarch 
Enoch, before he was taken away by God, the duration of 
365 years, since it is hard to believe that this number is 
put here by chance s . But even if that were so, we cannot 
doubt that this writer knew the year of 365 days. In fact, 
he makes the flood begin in the 600th year of Noah's life, 
on the seventeenth day of the second month; and the 
definite drying of the earth and end of the flood he puts 
in the 601st year of Noah's life, on the twenty-seventh day 
of the second month *. These months are certainly those 

' Volney, Voyage en Syrie el en £gypte (Paris, 1792), p. 19a. 
9 2 Chron. xxx. 2, 3. A law for similar cases is given in Numbers 
ix. 10, 11. 
9 Gen. v. 24. * Gen. vii. II, and viii. 4. 

The Jewish Year 127 

of the Jewish calendar, that is to say, lunar periods. The 
flood would therefore have lasted for twelve moons and 
eleven extra days. It is hard not to recognize here the 
intention of making the flood last for an exact solar year ; 
for if 354 days be assumed for the duration of twelve moons 
(they amount in reality to 354 days, 9 hours) the total 
duration of the flood comes to 365 days \ 

99. When the Israelites began to find themselves dispersed 
in various regions of the earth far distant from each other, 
such as Babylon and Egypt, it became impracticable to 
employ the method previously used of determining the 
beginning of the year by watching the ripening of the new 
ears of corn. Those who lived in Babylon could with- 
out difficulty follow the official computation of the Baby- 
lonians ; and we may suppose this to have been sufficiently 
well adapted to the Jewish rules, in the conditions of 
times which did not render the offering of the sacrifices 
obligatory. The Jews of Alexandria, however, could not 
adopt a similar course, for the calendar of the Egyptians was 
of little service to them, and that of the Romans of still 
less. They were always obliged to obtain the requisite 
information from the Sanhedrin in Palestine. At that time, 
according to the account of Julius Africanus 2 , they adopted 
the octaeteris of the Greeks, supposing it equal to eight years 
of 365J days, and to ninety-nine moons of 29JI days each. 

1 In the pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch and in the Book of Jubilees 
(both written at dates not far from the beginning of our era) very crude 
ideas are still found on the elements of the lunisolar calendar. The 
Book of Enoch supposes that the lunar year is one of 354 days exactly, 
the solar year of 364. [R. H. Charles, Book of Enoch, p. 187 sqq.] 

* Jul. Afric. apud Syncellum {Ckronogr., p. 61 1, ed. Bonn.). Approxi- 
mately the same statements are repeated by Cedrenus (i. 343, ed. Bonn.). 
Some idea (even though a very imperfect one) of the octaeteris was 
already possessed by the author of the Book of Enoch, who discourses 
about it in ch. 74. 

128 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

But this calculation was very imperfect ; adapting, as was 
natural, their solemnities to the course of the moon, they 
were quickly in disagreement with the course of the sun and 
with the seasons l . The boast of giving a definite basis for 
the calculation of the festivals and for the observance of the 
rites was reserved for the Jews of Babylonia, the descendants 
of the ancient exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar had deported 
thither. After many and various vicissitudes they found 
favour, or, at any rate, benevolent toleration, under the 
Arsacids and the first Sassanids; the Jewish communities 
of the Euphrates flourished, and along with the development 
of material prosperity a vigorous intellectual growth also 
took place. In the first half of the third century we find 
astronomy cultivated and taught in the schools of Nahardea 
and Sura by distinguished professors such as Rabbi Samuel 2 
and Rabbi Adda, who not only were in possession of exact 
fundamental principles concerning the motion of the sun and 
moon, but also knew the Metonic cycle. Were they the 

1 According to the course of the sun eight years represent approxi- 
mately 2,922 days, while ninety-nine moons actually give 2,92 3 \. 
Counting time by moons involved an error of one and a half days in 
eight years or fifteen days in eighty years, and the calculation was 
bound to deviate to that extent from the real course of the seasons. 
Ideler {pp. cit. i. 571-2 ; ii. 243 and 615) alludes also to the use 
which, according to some pieces of evidence, the Jews are said to 
have made of a period of eighty-four years. The notices, however, are 
of too uncertain a character for any stress to be laid on them : it 
is not mentioned at all in the Talmud or in any of the Rabbinical 
writers. Schiirer (Gcschichte des jiidischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jem 
Christi, ed. 4, i. 751-5) [cp. Eng. tr. of earlier edition, I. ii. 369] has 
collected various notices as to the method by which the Jews deter- 
mined the intercalation of the thirteenth month, in the centuries imme- 
diately before and after the beginning of our era. 

9 It is related of Rabbi Samuel that he said, speaking of shooting 
stars : ' Known to me are the ways of heaven, even as the ways of the 
city of Nahardea are known : but what a falling star is, that 
I know not.' 

The Jewish Year 129 

heirs of the dying astronomy of Babylon, or had they 
learned from the Greeks? However that may be, these 
masters already knew how to reduce to a sound practice 
the calculation of the new moons and of the equinoxes. 
Herewith the most urgent needs were supplied, and the 
bases of the existing Jewish calendar laid, which is believed 
to have been definitely systematized by Rabbi Hillel about 
the middle of the fourth century l . 

1 On the origin and history of the Jewish calendar, with which we 
cannot occupy ourselves here, see Ideler, op. cit. i. pp. 570-83. 




The Babylonian lunar week and the free Jewish week. — The 
repose of the Sabbath. — The year of liberty. — The year 
of remission. — The Sabbatic Year. — Epochs of the Sabbatic 
Year. — The Jewish Jubilee. — Questions relating to its origin 
and use. 

ioo. The length of the monthly period determined by 
the lunar phases was not easily adapted for all the usages 
of social life. Various peoples which have reached a certain 
degree of civilization, have felt the necessity of dividing time 
into shorter intervals, whether for the regulation of religious 
festivals and ceremonies, or so as to have an easily observable 
order for markets and other events occurring at distances 
of only a few days apart. Hence the origin of cycles that 
include a small number of days. Thus we find the period 
of three days among the Muyscas on the plateau of Bogota^ 
of five days among the Mexicans before the Spanish con- 
quest, and the week of seven days among the Jews, the 
Babylonians, and the Peruvians at the time of the Incas. 
The period of eight days is known as used by the Romans 
in the republican times (nundinae), and lastly that of ten 
days which was in regular use among the ancient Egyptians 
and among the Athenians. In the majority of cases, these 
periods were so arranged as to divide the lunar month into 
equal or almost equal parts. Thus the ten -day period was, 
among the Egyptians exactly, among the Athenians approxi- 
mately, the third part of a whole month. The week of the 

Septenary Periods 131 

Babylonians and of the Peruvians was fixed by the quarters 
of the lunar period. And among the Mexicans the five days 
were a quarter of their month, which is known to have 
consisted of twenty days only. 

101. As the length of a lunation is about 29^ days, 
a quarter of it comes to 7§ days. But as men cannot 
proceed in this matter otherwise than in whole numbers, 
they are obliged to keep to the nearest number of whole 
days. Hence arises the period of seven days, representing 
the nearest equivalent to a quarter of a lunation. The first 
and most ancient form of the week was accordingly to count 
successively seven, fourteen, twenty-one, and twenty-eight 
days from the beginning of the month (or from the new 
moon), leaving one or two days remaining over at the end, 
so as to recommence in a similar manner the calculation 
from the commencement of the next new moon. — This form 
of week, bound up with the lunar phases, was anciently in 
use among the Babylonians, as appears from a portion of 
a Babylonian calendar preserved in the British Museum 1 . 
In this precious record, which unfortunately contains one 
month only, the festivals and sacrifices to be celebrated are 
indicated, and the part the king ought to take in them. 
The seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days 
of the month are marked as umu limnu, that is, as unlucky 
days ; and, at the side of those days, various things are noted 
which might not be done on them. The king had to abstain 
from eating certain kinds of food, from attending to decisions 
affecting the affairs of state, from going out in his chariot. 
The priests could not utter oracles, the doctor could not lay 


1 Published in the original in Rawlinson's Cuneiform Inscriptions of 
Western Asia, vol. iv. tab. 33 and 33. Translation by Sayce, Records 
of the Past, first series, vii. 157-68. [See also Jastrow, Religion of Bab. 
and Ass. (1898), p. 376 ff.] Commentary by Zimmera, KAT. s p. 592 
[untranslated]. The document is the transcript of a more ancient copy, 
made by order of Asshurbanipal and found in the ruins of Nineveh. 

K 2 

132 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

his hand on a sick person. Men were not, however, for- 
bidden to attend to their private affairs, to buy and sell *. 

102. From the week thus bound up with the lunar phases 
it was easy to pass to a week which was purely conventional 
and rigorously periodic, such as we now use. The former 
was in fact subject to all the irregularities and uncertainties 
which accompany the determination of the new moon: it 
was natural to resolve this difficulty by making a perfectly 

1 This is clearly shown by the dates of the Babylonian contracts. 
Boscawen {Trans. Soc. Bibl. ArchaeoL vi. 1-78) has transcribed the 
dates of about 400 documents taken from the archives of the Babylonian 
business firm, Egibi and Sons. By classifying these dates according 
to the days of the month, I find that the number of contracts concluded 
on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days, is not 
at all smaller than the average. These same documents show that a real 
and actual abstention from business matters only took place on the 
nineteenth day of each month, i.e. the forty-ninth day (7 x 7) counting 
from the beginning of the preceding month. This nineteenth day is also 
marked, in the Babylonian Calendar which has been cited above, as until 
limnuy i.e. dies ne/astus, and all the rules laid down for the seventh, 
fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days are valid for the nine- 
teenth day also. But, in addition, contracts were not concluded on the 
nineteenth day. Perhaps therefore we must understand the matter thus : 
the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days were to be 
regarded as nefasti in the palace, but outside the palace, only for works 
of magic or divination; while the nineteenth day was considered 
nefastus for all purposes. 

It does not appear that the days in question were days of rest among 
the Babylonians. And it does not appear that they employed the word 
shabattn to describe them. It is more probable that they meant by it 
1 a day of pacification * (of a deity's anger). The coincidence derived 
from the resemblance between the two words affords no proof in favour 
of a real weekly rest or Sabbath among the Babylonians. 

[On the use oishabattu in Assyrian, see the article Sabbath in Hastings's 
Dictionary of the Bible, iv. 31 9*. or Zimmern, JCAT.* p. 592 ff. Since 
these articles were written, a lexicographical tablet belonging to the 
library of Asshurbanipal has been discovered by Mr. Pinches, in which 
shapattu is given as the name of the fifteenth day of the month, i.e. 
(presumably) of the day of the Full Moon : see Zimmern in Zcitschr. 
d. Deutschen morgenland. Gesellschaft , 1904, pp. 199 sqq.] 

Septenary Periods 133 

uniform period of seven days, free from any dependence 
on the moon or on any other celestial phenomenon of any 
kind. In this way it was easy to render the use of the 
week public and popular, by connecting it with some civil 
or religious act, for instance with a festival or a market, 
which was always held on the same day of each period, 
or even with both a festival and a market. Whether the 
Jews arrived at this conception through their own reflection 
or received it from others, it is no longer possible to decide. 
The institution of the week is certainly to be ranked among 
the most ancient recorded usages of the Jewish nation, and 
the Sabbath * as a day of enforced rest is found mentioned 
in the most ancient documents of the law, such as the two 
Decalogues 2 and the First Code 8 ; as also in the Books 
of Kings during the time of the prophet Elisha 4 , and in 
the prophecies of Amos and Hosea 6 . Its origin may 
possibly go back to the first beginnings of the Jewish 
people, and may well be even earlier than Moses. Carried 
by the Jews into their dispersion, adopted by the Chaldaean 
astrologers for use in their divinations, received by Christi- 
anity and Islam, this cycle, so convenient and so useful 
for chronology, has now been adopted throughout the world. 
Its use can be traced back for about 3,000 years, and there 
is every reason to believe that it will last through the cen- 
turies to come) resisting the madness of useless novelty and 
the assaults of present and future iconoclasts. 

103. It does not appear that the Jews gave special names 
to the days of the week, except to the Sabbath, which was 
regarded as the last day of the seven, a suitable position 

1 Shabath = cessavit (ab aliquo opere), feriatus est, qnievit : Shabbath = 
quies, sabbatnm. 

2 For the first Decalogue, see Exod. xx. 8-11 and Dent. v. 12-15. 
For the second, Exod. xxxiv. 21. 

3 Exod. xxiii. 12. * 2 Kings iv. 23. 
5 Hosea ii. 11; Amosviii. 5. 

134 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

for the rest which ought to follow after labour. No trace 
of such names appears in the books of the Old Testament, 
From the titles, however, which are found at the head of 
certain Psalms in the version of the LXX and in the Vulgate 1 , 
it may be argued that, at any rate in the centuries immedi- 
ately preceding the Christian era, the Jews indicated each day 
by its numerical name, designating the day following the 
Sabbath as the first day, its successor as the second, and 
so on. The sixth day, which preceded the Sabbath, was 
described as ' the day before the Sabbath ' ; and at a later 
date it was called by the Hellenistic Jews 7rapao-K€vf) or 
* preparation ' for the Sabbath, which corresponds to our 
Friday. Similar indications are found in the New Testa- 
ment 2 . 

104. Many believe that the week had its origin from the 
seven stars visible to the naked eye which traverse the 
celestial zodiac. For the ancient astronomers --and astro- 
logers these stars were the sun, the moon, and the five 
larger planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. 
On this subject we may observe first that to associate the 
sun and the moon, stars giving so much light and of so 
appreciable a diameter, with the five so much smaller planets 
just mentioned, is not what might be expected of the primi- 
tive systems of cosmography. To perceive their common 
characteristic, which is periodic movement within the zodiacal 
belt, an accurate and sufficiendy prolonged study is required. 

1 In these titles the Psalms are mentioned as to be sung on particular 
days : Psalm xxiv on the first day after the Sabbath ; Psalm xlviii on the 
second day after the Sabbath ; Psalm xciv on the fourth day after the 
Sabbath; Psalm xciii on the day preceding the Sabbath. These indications 
are absent in the Hebrew text of the Psalms, a fact which seems to 
prove that their origin is later than the composition of the Psalms 

a Matt, xxviii. 1; Mark xy. 42, xvi. 9; Luke xxiii. 54, xxiv, 1; 
John xx. l. 

Septenary Periods 135 

It is also necessary to have recognized that Mercury and 
Venus as morning stars are the same as Mercury and Venus 
as evening stars. All this seems to have been known to 
the Babylonians, at any rate at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, 
who boasts in one of his inscriptions of having raised 
a temple to the seven rulers of heaven and earth l . And 
yet, in spite of this, the week of the Babylonians, as was seen 
above, was not a planetary week like our own, but was 
founded upon quarters of lunations. In the Babylonian 
Calendar of which we have already spoken, there is no 
indication either of the planets or of the corresponding 
deities. On the other hand, the oldest use of the free and 
uniform week is found among the Jews, who had only 
a most imperfect knowledge of the planets. The identity 
of the number of the days in the week with that of the 
planets is purely accidental, and it is not permissible to 
assert that the former number is derived from the latter. 

105. The numerous relations, whether peaceful or war- 
like, of the Jews with Rome, when she had succeeded to 
the inheritance of the kings of Syria, had the effect of 
making the seven days' week and the Sabbath known to 
the Romans even before the Empire was established. 
Horace, Ovid, Tibullus, Persius, Juvenal, speak of the 
Sabbath as of something universally known; and Josephus 
could write that in his time there was no city, whether 
Greek or non-Greek, where the Jewish habit of celebrating 
the Sabbath was unknown 2 . About the same time men 
began already to attribute to the various days of the week 
those same names of pagan divinities which are still em- 
ployed at the present day, with only small alteration, among 
all the neo-Latin peoples, and are also used among the 

1 Ball, The India House Inscription of Nebuchadnezzar the Great (in 
Records of the Past, 2nd Series, vol. iii. pp. 102-23). 

2 C. Apionem t ii. 39. 

136 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

peoples of Germanic origin, though in a form modified 
according to northern mythology. Tibullus, in the third 
Elegy of his first Book, already calls the Sabbath the day 
of Saturn and a day of bad omen (lines 17, 18) : — 

Aut ego sum causatus aves, aut omina dira, 
Saturni aut sacram me tenuisse diem. 

Not long ago the following inscription was found scratched 
on the wall of a dining-room in Pompeii * : — 







This gives the days of the week in the order still adopted 
at the present time, with the omission, however, of Wednes- 
day, which is no doubt an accidental error. So then these 
names were already known and generally used before the 
destruction of Pompeii, which took place in 79 a.d. 

106. The astrological origin of these names is too familiar 
to require relating here. Their order depends on two sup- 
positions. The first is the division of the nychthemeron into 
twenty-four hours. This is enough by itself to exclude the 
possibility that their invention may be due to the Baby- 
lonians, since we have already seen that they divided their 
nychthemeron, not into twenty-four hours, but into twelve kaspu* 
Secondly, the order of these names is closely connected with 
the order of the seven planetary spheres adopted by Ptolemy" 
and after him by almost all astronomers and astrologers 
down to Copernicus. This order, commencing with the 
highest planet and descending to the lowest, is: Saturn, 

1 Atti delta R. Accademia dei Lincei, anno 1901, Notizie degti Scavi, 
P- 33°- 

'. Septenary Periods 137 

Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. Now the first 
notices which we possess of this arrangement do not ga 
back much beyond the first or second century before our 
era 1 . It is improbable that the application of the names 
of the planetary divinities (which are Greek divinities) to 
the days of the week is much older. We are indebted for 
these names to mathematical astrology, the false science 
which came to be formed after the time of Alexander the 
Great from the strange intermarriage between Chaldaean 
and Egyptian superstitions and the mathematical astronomy 
of the Greeks 2 . The division of the nychthemeron into twenty- 
four hours certainly came from Egypt; the order of the 
planetary spheres which has been described above is prob- 
ably the result of neo-Pythagorean speculations, as I hope 
to show on another occasion. 

107. Has the progress of the week always been regular 
and never been interrupted throughout the centuries, in such 
a way as always to place an interval of seven days from one 
Sabbath to another, or a number of days which is some 
multiple of seven ? It is clear that an interruption of its use, 
even for a not very long time, might have disturbed the uni- 
formity of the succession, and in consequence a Sabbath 
occurring after the interruption could be separated from 
a Sabbath occurring before it by a number of days which is 
not a multiple of seven. Not all the materials for settling 

1 If we were to believe Macrobius, this order would already have 
been adopted by Archimedes, and hence would go back to the third 
century B.C. See his CommentaHum in somnium Scipionis t i. 19 ; ii. 
3. The authority of Macrobius in such a matter does not seem to be of 
much weight. Even, however, if it be accepted, not much would result; 
in no case can the inference be drawn from it that the conception of the 
week arose from the seven planets. 

2 On the history of the week in east and west, Ideler may be 
consulted with advantage {pp. cit. i. 60, 87, 178-80,480-2; ii. 177-9; 
and elsewhere). 

138 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

this question are in existence, or at any rate, not all have the 
degree of certainty which one could desire : recourse must 
in part be had to conjecture. It is certain that an institution 
of such antiquity, and sanctioned by all the religious codes of 
the Jews, must have been observed with the utmost care 
before the Babylonian exile. During that exile the Jewish 
community of Babylon seems to have attained a remarkable 
degree of cohesion and authority : so much so that it 
could continue a vigorous existence for more than a thousand 
years, down to the persecutions of the last Sassanids. In 
this community, where the existing Jewish calendar had 
its origin, and the Babylonian Talmud was composed, it 
cannot be doubted that the Sabbath continued to be ob- 
served, at any rate so far as concerns complete abstention 
from any servile labour; and for this purpose the fact of 
residence in a foreign land offered facilities for profiting 
by the aid of non-Jewish servants. Hence it cannot be 
doubted that the Sabbatic interval has successfully traversed 
without interruption, not only the period from the destruction 
of the first Temple to the building of the second, but also 
the time down to the destruction of the latter by Titus 
in 70 a. d. By this date, however, the Sabbath had already 
penetrated into the habits of the Roman world, and into 
Christianity itself, where no difficulty was felt from the first 
in accepting a calculation on which the life of the Redeemer 
and its last incidents had been regulated. The only im- 
portant alteration took place when, instead of the Sabbath, 
the day of the Sun was adopted as the festal day, and hence- 
forward it was called ' the day of the Lord ' {ji^pa KvptaKq, 
dies Dominica), owing to the resurrection of Christ having 
occurred on that day. This change, the first indications of 
which are found in St. Justin Martyr's Apology », exercised no 
influence on the periodical recurrence of the seven days' 
weeks, and only caused this consequence that the repose of 

Septenary Periods 139 

the Jews and the weekly festival of the Christians were no 
longer celebrated at the same time. But for the one, as for 
the other, the Sabbath fell on the same day. Nor was any 
change effected in the days of Constantine, when for the 
names dies Lunae, dies Martis, dies Mercurii, &c, an attempt 
was made, though with only small success, to substitute the 
less pagan titles feria secunda, feria teriia, feria quarta, 
&c. After Constantine, the week came definitely to form 
an essential part of the Christian liturgy, and thencefor- 
ward no further occasion for alteration arose. The week 
pursued its course undisturbed even at the time when the 
Christian calendar was reformed by -Gregory XIII in 1582. 
Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans are perfectly in agree- 
ment on the dates of the Sabbath, although they celebrate 
their weekly festivals on different days, namely, the Mohamme- 
dans on Friday, the >Jews on Saturday, and the Christians on 
Sunday. Hence the week has become a- golden thread which 
often serves to guide the historian through the uncertainties 
of chronology. 

108. Pbriods of Seven Years. >Even from the first times 
of the Mosaic legislation, the interval of seven years was 
used to regulate certain religious or civil ordinances. One 
of these concerned the enforced liberation of slaves of Jewish 
nationality in the seventh year of their bondage. We read 
in the First Coder 1 : ' When thou hast bought a Hebrew 
slave, he shall serve thee for six years; but in the seventh 
year he shall go out free -without paying for his redemption/ 
This arrangement is repeated together with strong exhortations 
in Deuteronomy 3 ; it is considered as a duty by Jeremiah 3 , 
and is again mentioned in Ezekiel 4 , from whom we also know 
that this seventh year was called 'the year of liberty.' 

In this case the septennial period was a mere interval, the 

1 Exod. xxi. 2. a Deut. xv. 12-18. 

3 Jer. xxxiv. 13, 14. * Ezek. xlvi. 17. 

140 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

beginning and end of which varied according to persons and 
places. On the other hand, a fixed septennial period, a 
true heptaeteris common to the whole Jewish people, exists in 
the period which prescribed the remission of debts. Perhaps 
this, too, was not originally tied down to dates common to 
the whole people. The First Code says nothing at all about it. 
The oldest mention of the ( year of remission ' (shemittah) is 
found in Deuteronomy l : ' At the end of seven years thou 
shalt make the remission : and this is the manner of the 
remission. Every creditor shall remit that which he hath 
given on loan to his neighbour and to his brother, because 
the remission of Yahwe has been proclaimed. . . . Beware 
that there be not a wicked thought in thy heart, saying to 
thee, The seventh year, the year of remission, is at hand ; and 
that it make thee not to turn the eye of evil towards thy 
brother, and thou give him nought/ &c. Here there is 
clearly indicated a fixed and common period for the creditors 
and debtors of the whole nation. This view is further con- 
firmed by another ordinance also contained in Deuteronomy s , 
where it is prescribed that in the year of remission the read- 
ing of the Law is to take place before the whole people « 
The observance of the year of remission and of its septennial 
cycle, would accordingly go back to "the date of Josiah king of 
Judah, under whom (and, to be precise, in the eighteenth 
year of his reign, 621 b. c), according to an old and very 
probable opinion, the prophetic code of legislation contained 
in Deuteronomy was proclaimed. In the epoch of Nehemiah 
the seventh year of remission was in full operation 3 ; no traces 
of it are found later, and it seems that it was abolished soon 
after his date. 

109. Repose of the Land : Sabbatic Yeai*. The institution 
of a septennial repose of the land (also called the ' Sabbath 

1 Dent. xv. 1-9. 9 Dent. xxxi. 10. 3 Neh. x. 31. 

Septenary Periods 141 

of the land/ or the ' Sabbatic Year ') seems to date back to 
the first beginnings of the Mosaic law. It appears to have 
been originally instituted either to secure the rest for the soil 
which was necessary in an epoch when agriculture had not 
advanced far, or for philanthropic objects. The First Code 
says 1 : 'Six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather 
the fruits thereof; but in the seventh year thou shalt leave it 
and abandon it, that the poor of thy people may eat thereof. 
. . . The same shalt thou do with thy vineyard, and with thy 
oliveyard/ It is, of course, to be understood that this repose 
of the land was not to take place simultaneously over aH 
properties, and not even over all parts of the same piece of 
property: otherwise bad provision would have been made 
for the philanthropic object of the institution, and the danger 
would have arisen of starving the whole country once every 
seven years. This law of the rest for the land, after being 
vigorously enforced for some time, was afterwards irregularly 
observed and finally abandoned altogether: Deuteronomy 
makes no mention of it, nor does any prophet before the exile, 
and it seems to have fallen into oblivion even in the time of 
Ezra and Nehemiah 2 » 

1 Exod. xxiii. 10, n. Some critics, among them Hupfeld, Reuss, 
and Wellhausen, have concluded from the expression 'leave it (the 
fruit) and abandon it,' that to abandon the fruit of the seventh year does 
not necessarily involve that the land must be left uncultivated and the 
vine unpruned. The earth would according to this view be cultivated 
in the seventh year too and its fruit abandoned to the poor. This might 
stand, did not the preceding verse say quite clearly: 'Six years thou 
shalt sow thy land,* thus seeming to exclude sowing in the seventh year. 
The words • repose of the land ' seem to decide the question. 
, a Nehemiah (x. 31), enumerating the duties to which the people 
solemnly binds itself in relation to its God, says: 'We will forgo 
the seventh year and the exaction of every debt ' ; but is com- 
pletely silent about the repose of the land. It has been wrongly 
believed that this repose is included in the expression 'forgo the 
seventh year 1 : but these words refer to the. remission of debts r and 

142 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

no. At a time which cannot well be accurately fixed, but 
was in any case later than that of Nehemiah and earlier than 
the final redaction of the Pentateuch and its consecration 
as the Divine Law, there was inserted in the Pentateuch a 
collection of provisions relating to this subject which are com- 
pletely different from those sanctioned shortly before by Ezra 
and sworn to by the people about 445 b.c. These new 
rules are contained in Leviticus xxv, with some additions in 
xxvii. Their effect is that the liberation of the Israelite slaves 
and the remission of debts are to be settled no longer in every 
seventh year but in every fiftieth year instead, that is, in 
the Year of the Jubilee, in which there was also to take place 
the simultaneous return of all properties acquired during the 
preceding fifty years to their former owners. These provisions 
remained a dead letter, as we shall see, and were never 
carried into practice. On the other hand the old and almost 
forgotten law of the septennial repose of the land was 
revived with great effect and much severity 1 , almost in 
the same terms as those used in the First Code, but with the 
important difference that the year of rest was the same for 

regulate the periodical return of this action. That the Sabbath of thtf 
Land had long fallen into disuse at the time of Jeremiah can be gathered 
from a passage of that prophet which is not found in his book but is 
preserved in Chronicles, where, in reference to the destruction of 
Jerusalem, it is said (2 Chron. xxxvi. 21) that it happened 'that the 
word of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, until the land had been compensated 
for its years of rest ; through all the time of its abandonment it rested, 
to complete the seventy years.' Jeremiah, therefore, reproved the Jews 
for having neglected the Sabbath of the Land, which the First Code had 
ordained, and considered this to be one of the offences which called down 
the Divine wrath upon Israel. The passage of Jeremiah is repeated in 
almost identical terms in the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus (w. 34, 
35, 43), which seems to be partly taken from works by that prophet 
which we no longer possess. It is instructive to compare Lev. xxvi. 4, 
12, 17, 29, 33, 37 with Jer. v. 24, xxx. 22, xxi. 10, xix. 9, ix. 16, 
xlvi. 12. 

1 Lev. xxv. 2-7, 20-22, 

Septenary Periods 143 

the whole land of Israel. This ordinance, which might 
appear to some absurd and tyrannical, was evidently intro- 
duced in order to render it easier to provide for its observance. 
The poor accordingly, to whom were reserved the spontaneous 
fruits of the earth in the year of rest, could satisfy themselves 
abundantly every seventh year, on condition, however, of 
fasting throughout the six intervening years. The nation 
was moreover subjected every seven years to the danger of 
a general and terrible famine. 

in. In the time before the exile, when the two king- 
doms of Israel and Judah contained millions of inhabitants 
living exclusively by agriculture, such a law would not have 
been possible. In the small Jewish community established 
after the exile in Jerusalem and in the villages round about, 
surrounded by strangers who came every day to sell pro- 
visions l , the enactment, though a sufficiently heavy burden, 
was not so hard to carry out. It is a fact that it was imposed ; 
and when the Torah (that is to say, the final and most 
comprehensive code of Mosaism as we now have it) was con- 
stituted in a definite manner, there appeared in it the order for 
the septennial repose of the land, to be observed universally in 
the seventh year, which was therefore called a ' Sabbatic Year/ 
It came into force and was faithfully observed down to the 
destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 a.d. The 
Sabbatic Year did not correspond to the sacerdotal year, 
which began in spring, but to the civil year of the Syrians, 
which had now come into use among the Jews, and whose 
beginning coincided with the new moon of the seventh month, 
generally falling in October. In this autumn the sowing was 
omitted, and in the following spring and summer gathering 
in was omitted. Under ordinary circumstances it was possible 
to make the necessary arrangements for obviating the danger 
of famine ; but in case of war, and especially of siege, the 

1 Neh, x. 31, xiii. 16, 

i44 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

consequences of the Sabbatic Year made themselves felt on 
more than one occasion. We have evidence of it in the first 
Book of the Maccabees, where it is related that, when 
Antiochus Eupator had occupied Bethsura, the inhabitants 
had to leave the town as they had no more to eat, ' because 
it was the Sabbath of the land/ and shortly afterwards that 
famine was felt in Jerusalem 'because it was the seventh 
year,' and those of the Gentiles who had come into Judaea 
had consumed all the rest of the provisions in store 1 . 
Josephus narrates in the same way that during the siege 
laid by Herod to Jerusalem, the famine was aggra- 
vated by reason of the Sabbatic Year then running its 
course 9 . 

112. The notices as to various returns of the Sabbatic 
Year, which are found in the first Book of the Maccabees, in 
the works of Josephus, and in the Jewish traditions of the 
first centuries of our era, allow us to fix with some certainty 
the date of some Sabbatic Years 3 * Thus, from a study of 
the chronology employed in the first Book of the Maccabees, 
the result has been reached that the Sabbatic Year corre- 
sponding to the occupation of Bethsura by Antiochus Eupator 
(to which we have alluded above) lasted from the autumn of 
164 B.C. to the autumn of the following year 163 b.c. The 
indications of Josephus as to the siege of Jerusalem effected 
by Herod with the aid of the Romans under Sosius 4 , place 
the capture of the city in the consulship of M. Agrippa and 
Caninius Gallus ; hence it can be inferred that the Sabbatic 
Year then in progress began with the autumn of 38 b.c and 

1 1 Mace vi. 49, 53. 8 Josephus, Ant. xiv. 16. 

1 The remarks which follow are mainly dependent upon the dis- 
cussions and results published by Schiirer in the fourth edition of his 
most learned work, Gesehichte des jlidischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu 
Christie vol. i. pp. 32-8 [cp. Eng. tr. of earlier edition, I. i. 41]. 

* Josephus, Ant. xiv. 16. 

Septenary Periods 145 

ended with the autumn of 37 b.c. A third fixed point is 
furnished by a Jewish tradition according to which the year 
in which the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the 
Romans had been preceded by a Sabbatic Year : that Sabbatic 
Year accordingly lasted from the autumn of 68 a.d. to the 
autumn of 69 a.d. 1 

113. Comparing these dates together, we find that the 
interval between the first and second of the Sabbatic Years in- 
dicated is one of 126 years, or of eighteen times seven years ; 
and that the interval between the second and third is one of 
105 years, or of fifteen times seven years. We may conclude 
from this that during the whole time comprised between the 
revolt of the Maccabees and the destruction of Jerusalem 
(and probably also for a certain time before the Maccabees) 
the recurrence of the Sabbatic Year was rigorously and 
regularly observed from seventh year to seventh year, without 
any interruption. If therefore any one wishes to ascertain 
whether a given year was a Sabbatic Year, he will be able to 
do it easily by examining whether the interval between that 
year and one of the three years above mentioned gives 
a number divisible by seven. To put it generally, if n be 
any whole number, we can say that the beginning of the 
Sabbatic Years took place in the years 7 n -f- 3 before Christ 
and in the years 7« + 5 after Christ, in autumn. For 
instance, if »=o, it will follow that in the autumn of the year 
3 b. c. a Sabbatic Year began, and so also in the autumn of 
the year 5 a.d. And if n be given the value of all the whole 
numbers successively {t\e. suppose 0=1, 2, 3, 4, . . . ), 
any one who wishes can form a table of all the years before 
and after Christ in the autumn of which a Sabbatic Year began. 

The question may now be raised, whether the period 
of the Sabbatic Year can be considered as a continuation of 
the analogous period of remission which fell out of use 
1 Jerusalem was taken by Titus in the summer of the year 70 a.d. 

sch. L 

146 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

when the Sabbatic Year was instituted after the time of 
Nehemiah? This is probable enough in itself; but positive 
arguments and historical proofs cannot be adduced in support 
of it. Neither in the Old Testament nor elsewhere can any 
date be found which allows the years of remission to be 
calculated in the way which we have been able to adopt for 
the Sabbatical Years. 

114. The Jubilee. Those legislators of Leviticus who 
came after Ezra tried to substitute for the septennial period 
of the year of liberty and for that of the year of remission, 
both of which had been abolished, a period of fifty years 
which was named the Jubilee because its beginning was 
proclaimed in the autumn of the fiftieth year by uttering 
with trumpets and horns called yobel, which were appro- 
priated for this purpose, a cheerful musical sound 1 . The 
arrangement of this cycle is defined as follows 9 : ' Thou 
shalt number seven Sabbaths of years, that is, seven times 
seven years, so that the space of the seven Sabbaths shall 
be forty-nine years; and then shalt thou cause the sound 
of the trumpet to come forth on the tenth day of the seventh 
month, on the day of atonement, throughout all the country. 
And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year in the land, and ye 
shall proclaim liberty for all its inhabitants. It shall be 
a Jubilee unto you, and each man shall return to his pos- 
session and each man to his family. A Jubilee shall the 
fiftieth year be unto you. Ye shall not sow, neither reap 
that which groweth of itself, and ye shall not gather the 
grapes- on the undressed vines. ... In selling or in buying 
(a field) ye shall not deceive one another ; according to the 
number of years that have passed since the Jubilee shall 

1 As I am informed by a friend, yobel most probably meant a ram 
(Joshua vi. 4-5) ; then it was applied to a rams horn nsed as a trumpet 
(Exod. xix. 13: cp. R.V. margin). 

g Lev. xxv. 8-42. 

Septenary Periods 147 

the price increase or diminish; because that which is sold 
is the number of the crops (i.e. to the next Jubilee). Ye 
may not sell the land for ever, because mine is the land^ 
and ye are guests and tenants (usufructuaries) with me. . . . 
And when thy brother has grown poor and is sold to thee, 
thou shalt not treat him like a slave; but as a workman, 
as a temporary member of the house, shall he remain with 
thee down to the Year of Jubilee ; then shall he depart 
free, he and his children, and return to his own family and 
to the possession of his fathers. For they are my servantSi 
whom I have freed from the land of Egypt : they shall 
not be sold as slaves.' As we see, the object of all these 
rules is to reduce to a longer period, and so render less severe 
and easier to observe, the septennial recurrences of the year of 
liberty, and of the repose of the land, as prescribed in the 
First Code and in Deuteronomy. 

115. The year of liberty, which was originally intended 
to be the seventh from the beginning of the term of servitude, 
and from which the majority of slaves were once able to 
profit, is now fixed for all without distinction in the Year of 
Jubilee ; and herewith the hope of regaining liberty without 
paying redemption money became for a great number of 
them completely illusory. The year of remission seems to 
have disappeared from the Code, and to have fallen out of use 
after Nehemiah. There is no mention of it in the Jubilee 
legislation of Lev. xxv and xxvii. As regards the Sabbath 
repose of the land, it was certainly in appearance 1 an advantage 
to landed proprietors to render the renovation of the soil rarer 
by imposing it every fifty years instead of the original seven, 

1 I say in appearance, because we are not well acquainted with the 
conditions of agricultural land in Palestine at that time, or with 
the system of cultivation employed. Experience has shown that, where 
abundant and good manure is not available, repose becomes necessary at 
intervals even shorter than seven years. 

L 2 

148 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

but the benefit which the poor derived from it was clearly 
diminished by the same amount. On the other hand, a great 
benefit for the whole nation and an effect of moral and 
social importance might have been produced by the return 
of the estates to their old owners in the Year of Jubilee; 
this would have had the result of preventing the impoverish- 
ment of families and the excessive accumulation of the real 
property of the country in the hands of one individual. By 
making God the universal owner of all estates and of all 
slaves, and reducing themselves to mere usufructuary occu- 
pants for a limited time, the Israelites would have found 
the means of preventing (up to a certain point) the excessive 
inequality of fortunes, and would thus have provided a so- 
lution of the great social problem which so much troubles 
modern thinkers at the present day. In the mind of the legis- 
lator the redemption of slaves was certainly strictly depen- 
dent on the conception of the return of properties every 
fifty years ; the repose of the land was undoubtedly meant 
to render the passage from one cultivator to another easier. 
But the interpretation of these rules in detail and, still more, 
their prescribed coexistence with the Sabbatic Year, have 
created serious difficulties about which it would not be proper 
to be silent here. 

116. In Leviticus the law of the Jubilee begins by saying: 
* Thou shalt number seven Sabbaths of years, that is, seven 
times seven years, so that the space of the seven Sabbaths 
of years shall be forty-nine years/ Here the phrase * Sabbath 
of years' does not mean (as it could be interpreted) any 
period of seven consecutive years, but that seventh year 
which completes the week of seven years and is destined 
for the repose of the land : in other words, the c Sabbath 
of years ' is the Sabbatic Year, just as the Sabbath of days 
is the Sabbath Day. Notice further that after counting 
seven Sabbaths of years we ought to arrive at a total of 

Septenary Periods 149 

forty-nine years, and this could not be unless the 49th 
year were itself a ' Sabbath of years/ After this Sabbath 
one year will still remain, the fiftieth year of the cycle, which 
will be the Jubilee Year : in other words, the first Jubilee 
cycle will exceed by one year the seven weeks of years. 
The result will be this: in consequence of the regular, 
never interrupted progression of the Sabbatic Years from 
seventh year to seventh year (see §§ 112, 113), the 
arrangement of these years in the second Jubilee cycle will 
no longer be that prescribed by Leviticus, and another 
arrangement different again will take place in the third 
Jubilee cycle, and so on in succeeding cycles. And only 
for the first cycle will it be true that, when the seventh 
Sabbatic year is finished, the total will amount to forty-nine 

117. Now, it would be possible to escape this difficulty 
by assuming that by t Sabbaths of years ' (shabbtthoth shanitn) 
we ought to understand not Sabbatic Years but mere periods 
of seven years, within which the Sabbatic Year could occupy 
the first, or the last, or any place. In this case the years 
of the seven weeks of years would always be forty-nine, 
and the Jubilee period would always be completed in the 
following year, the fiftieth. Even if this interpretation be 
admitted (and there is much to be said against it), all 
difficulties would not be thereby removed. It is in fact 
clear that, if the first Jubilee cycle begins with the first 
year of the week of years, it will also end with the first 
year. Again, the second Jubilee cycle will begin with the 
second year of the week of years, and also end with 
the second year. By continuing the calculation we see that 
the third Jubilee cycle will begin with the third year of the 
week of years and also end with the third year, and so on. 
It thus results that the fiftieth year, that of the Jubilee, must 
fall successively in all the seven years which compose the 

150 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

week of years. Sometimes, however, it will happen that 
the Jubilee Year is immediately preceded or immediately 
followed by the Sabbatic Year. And as the repose of the 
land is obligatory in both years equally, the final result 
will inevitably be that it will be necessary to allow the land 
to rest for two consecutive years. The consequences can 
easily be understood if we represent to our imagination 
what Italy would become if two harvests of the land were 
completely omitted, one after the other. They would have 
been much more serious still among the Israelites in 
Palestine, where the inhabitants lived almost entirely upon 
the fruits of the earth, industrial occupations being certainly 
very small in extent and commerce completely non-existent. 
Ewald l has sought for a solution of this difficulty in a way 
which appears to me to be entirely illusory, as he practically 
assumes that the last week of years in >the Jubilee period 
is a week of eight years : in other words, that the Sabbatic 
Years throughout the period are the seventh, fourteenth, 
twenty-first, twenty-eighth, thirty-fifth, forty-second, and 
fiftieth. Another similar answer had been propounded by 
the great scholar Moses Maimonides, with whose view 
Ideler 2 also associates himself. Maimonides says: 'The 
forty-ninth year is a Sabbatic Year, the fiftieth year is 
a year of yobel ; the fifty-first forms the beginning of a 
new week of years/ This interpretation places a repose 
of the land in the forty-ninth and in the fiftieth year 
of every period, thus aggravating the difficulty on which 
we laid stress above in regard to the practice of allowing 
the land to rest for two consecutive years. Both solutions 
are also contrary to the law of the Sabbatic Year, which 
supposes a regular and uniform interval of seven years, 
as the law of the Sabbath Day supposes a regular 

1 Ewald, Antiquities, p. 375. % Ideler, op. cit. i. pp. 503-4. 

Septenary Periods 151 

and uniform interval of seven days. Now it is quite certain 
that during the existence of the second Temple this 
regularity in the periods of the Sabbatic Year was con- 
sistently observed, as has been proved above by his- 
torical dates ranging from the epoch of the Maccabees 
down to the destruction of the second Temple by the 

118. All these difficulties have their root in the fact that 
the number fifty of the Years of the Jubilee cycle is not 
exactly divisible by seven, the number of the years of the 
Sabbatic cycle. It would easily be made to disappear if 
one could interpret the text of the law in such a way as 
to extract forty-nine years from it instead of fifty. Then 
the Jubilee Year (that is to say, the forty-ninth year) would 
also be a Sabbatic Year, and a more solemn Sabbatic Year 
than the six others which had preceded it in the course 
of the cycle. This expedient seems already to have pre- 
sented itself very readily to the minds of some doctors of 
the Jewish law. In fact the Book of Jubilees 1 , which is 
held to have been composed not long before or after the 
Christian era, arranges the whole chronology of the facts 
contained in the Pentateuch according to Jubilees of forty- 
nine years, whence it derives its name. And yet nearly 
at the same time Philo and Josephus 2 were affirming that 
the Jubilee period was one of fifty years. The period 
of forty-nine years was also accepted by a certain Rabbi 
Jehudah, who was persuaded, according to the statement in 
the Talmud 3 , that the last Year of one Jubilee period was 

1 See the translation of this book by Littmann, published in 
Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testa- 
ments, vol. ii (Tubingen, 1900). [English translation by R. H. 
Charles, London, 1902.] 

a Quoted by Ideler, op. cit. i. p. 506. 

3 Ideler, op. cit. i. p. 503, cites for this the tractate in the Talmud 
called Erubin. 

152 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

to be counted as the first of the next Jubilee period; so 
that the duration of the cycle remains one of fifty years 
only in appearance but in reality is reduced to forty-nine, 
the order of the Sabbatic Years continuing to be perfectly 
preserved. The doctors of the school of the Geonim, which 
was the first school after the redaction of the Talmud was 
definitely^ closed *, agreed to this method of interpretation, 
and cited a certain tradition according to which, after the 
destruction of the first Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the 
years were no longer counted by Jubilee periods but only 
by Sabbatic Years. They even constructed a system of 
chronology according to these years, in relation to which 
their solution is in complete harmony with the formulae 
established above on the basis of historical dates. Among 
modern chronologists, some of the most authoritative, such 
as Scaliger and Petavius, have been in favour of a duration 
of forty-nine years. 

Yet there are objections to this opinion also, as it does 
not accord well with the text of the law : that text indicates 
too clearly the period of fifty years. That in the mind of 
the legislator the duration was to be of fifty years and not 
of forty-nine, can also be proved from the fact that he has 
found it necessary (in Lev. xxv. n, 12) to enjoin the repose 
of the land in the Jubilee Year. This would have been 
totally unnecessary had the period been one of forty-nine years, 
since the legislator could not have been ignorant that in this 
case the Jubilee Year coincided with a Sabbatic Year, so 
that there would be no occasion to make a special order for 
the repose of the land. 

119. Whichever of the two hypotheses (of fifty or forty- 
nine years) one may incline to prefer, it is impossible to 
arrive at a satisfactory interpretation. The reason lies in 

the fact that in the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus two 

1 Ideler, ibid. 

Septenary Periods 153 

systems of rules have been combined together, which are not 
only different but actually irreconcilable with each other-* 
the septennial system of the Sabbatic Year, and the Jubilee 
system of fifty years. These two systems cannot be con- 
sidered as forming part of one and the same legislation ; they 
have a different origin, and were probably conceived by 
different persons at different times. Their incompatibility 
gives us the right to predict that if the one system 
was put into practice at a given epoch, the other could 
not have made way at the same time and must have 
remained in the condition of a mere project This is what 
really happened. Good historical evidence makes it quite 
certain that the Sabbatic Year was introduced into the rites 
of Judaism some time after Ezra and Nehemiah, and con- 
tinued to be observed with the utmost regularity down to the 
destruction of the second Temple ; while as to the actual 
observance of the Jubilee we find the most complete silence 
throughout, in the writers of all epochs. 

120. The idea of the Jubilee, which is to be celebrated 
after seven weeks of years, is manifestly derived by analogy 
from that of the solemnity in spring, which (as we have said 
above) was celebrated when the harvest was finished, after 
seven weeks of days had elapsed from the offering of the 
f omer y and actually on the fiftieth day 1 — a solemnity of 
ancient institution which is already mentioned in the First 
Code and again sanctioned by the law of Deuteronomy. 
But neither in the First Code nor in Deuteronomy is any 
allusion to be found to the Jubilee ; that is only alluded to 
in the twenty-fifth and twenty-seventh chapters of Leviticus 
and in one passage in Numbers 2 . The prophets were com- 

1 See above : ch. viii. $ 96. 

3 In Lev. xxv and xxvii the law of the Jubilee is propounded, and 
its rules and exceptions are explained, in remarkably fall detail. We 
have no other mention of the Jubilee in the Old Testament except in 

154 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

pletely ignorant of it; otherwise they would not have had 
occasion to inveigh, as they do, against the accumulators 
of large estates. Isaiah says (v. 8) : * Woe to those that join 
house to house and add field to field, until all the space is 
occupied and ye dwell alone as inhabitants of the land.' 
Similarly Micah (ii. 2) : * Woe to those that desire fields and 
seize them by violence, and desire houses and take them 
away ; they oppress a man and his house, even a man and 
his heritage/ But even during the period of the existence of 
the second Temple there is no evidence attesting a single 
celebration of the Jubilee ; and yet so memorable and so 
extraordinary an event must have left some record of its 
occurrence. It is true that some writers of that epoch allude 
to the Jubilee, and we have already mentioned Josephus, 
Philo, and the Book 0/ Jubilees, But these evidently derive 
all their knowledge of it from Leviticus ; sufficient proof may 
be found in their not agreeing as to the length of the period, 
the first two authors putting it at fifty years, the third at 
forty-nine. Josephus also {Ant. iii. 12), when speaking of 
the Jubilee, shows himself to be ill-informed, and attributes 
to Moses ordinances completely different from those which 
we read in Leviticus. All this would be impossible if the 
Jubilee had been a fact of experience for them, publicly 
known and observed. 

In what way, however, two such contradictory laws have 
been combined together in the Priestly Code, and how they 
came to find themselves associated and even amalgamated 
together in one and the same chapter 1 , it is no longer 

Num. xxx vi. 4, on the subject of the daughters of Zelophehad : allusion 
is there made to the return of estates to their owners. In Exod. xix. 13 
and Joshua vi. 4-6 the reference is only to the instrument called yobel 
[see p. 146, note 1] : not to the period of the Jubilee, as some have 

1 In Lev. xxv, verses 1-7 deal with the Sabbatic Year, 8-19 with the 
Jubilee; 20-22 again refer to the Sabbatic Year, and from 23 onwards it 

Septenary Periods 155 

possible to know exactly. But certain facts ought not to be 
omitted which are connected with this question. 

121. The Priestly Code as it exists for us in the Penta- 
teuch, although having its roots in the First Code, in 
Deuteronomy, and in the ritual of Solomon's Temple, is 
principally, as is well known, the result of manifold and 
complicated legislative labour which took place during and 
after the exile, over a tQtal period amounting perhaps to two 
centuries. The great problem of reconstituting the nation 
by adapting its ancient uses to new circumstances was 
undoubtedly an object pursued with much zeal, and it gave 
occasion for various proposed laws, some of which secured, 
others did not secure, others again only secured for a certain 
time, the favour of the public. We may cite in evidence 
of this the experiment (a somewhat fantastic one, to speak 
candidly) of a similarly suggested system of laws relating 
chiefly to the Temple, to its personnel, and to rites, which 
are preserved to our own times in the last nine chapters 
of the Book of Ezekiel; not a few traces of this system 
succeeded in making <their way, long afterwards, into the 
Priestly Code. Another example of this process of forma- 
tion may be found in the seventh chapter of Zechariah, where 
we see clearly that certain .questions of ritual remained 
unsettled in his time, and that certain practices were then 
in use of which no sign is any longer to be found in the later 
laws. To all these uncertainties the legislation of Ezra to 
a certain extent put an end, when it was solemnly proclaimed 
and sworn to by the people in 445 b. c. or a little later; not 
so much so, however, but that new additions and modifica- 
tions of great importance were supplementarily made, down 
to the time (about 400 b. c. ?) when the Torah was finally 
consecrated as a sacred and invariable Canon under the 

is again the Jubilee. Here is shown the negligence of a compiler who 
welds together heterogeneous or even contradictory materials. 

156 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

form of the existing Code of the Pentateuch. It is accord- 
ingly no matter for surprise that the result should have been 
a collection, which was not always well arranged, of laws 
belonging to different epochs, sometimes even contradictory 
one of another. 

122. Returning now to the two laws contained in the 25th 
chapter of Leviticus, we may observe that one of them, 
relating to the Sabbatic Year, though sanctioned at so late a 
date (§§ no and in), seems to have been proposed as early 
as during the exile. It is declared, namely, very shortly 
afterwards in the context (xxvi. 33-5), that in the time of the 
exile * the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths all the time that it 
shall remain desolate and that ye are in the country of your 
enemies. ... It shall rest all the time that it shall stand 
desert, because it rested not in your Sabbaths while ye dwelt 
in it.' Only a prophet of the exile could speak in these 
terms; and that prophet, if we accept the evidence of a 
passage in Chronicles, would be no other than Jeremiah 1 . 

The law of the Jubilee, reducing the liberation of 
slaves and the repose of the land, to every fiftieth 
year, produced a considerable alleviation of burdens. 
It is accordingly not probable that it was conceived in 
the fervour of ideas, and in the spirit of zeal, suitable 
to the period of the exile, a time of hope and of expec- 
tation, in which no duty seemed too severe for the 
people to bind themselves to undertake in the restored Jeru- 
salem. A law so practical and so well adapted to the 
straitened circumstances in which the Israelite community 
lived for a long time after Zerubbabel, was certainly proposed 
after the return from exile. 

Neither of the laws seems to have been contained in 
the code of Ezra. In the oath imposed upon the people 
during the solemn convocation 9 , mention is made only 
1 2 Chron. xxxvi. ax. See above, p. 141, note a. 3 Neh. x. 31. 

Septenary Periods 157 

of the septennial remission of debts. We may conclude, 
therefore, that neither law had been observed before, but 
only expounded in books of older date, and that both were 
introduced into the Priestly Code by its last compiler at a 
time subsequent to Ezra. He seems to have had the 
intention of combining in it, as in a corpus Juris, many 
laws, ancient and modern, which came to his notice ; at any 
rate those which did not conflict too manifestly with the 
principal rules of Mosaism, even though they might be in 
none too great harmony with them '. 

123. In connexion with the Jubilee we may notice in 
addition, on the ground of curiosity, that if the Jews had 
fixed it at forty-nine years, not only would it have been 
possible to arrange the Sabbatic Years in it conveniently, but 
they would also have gained the advantage of being able 
to use it for the regulation of the intercalary months, and for 
determining the beginning of the year. The period of forty- 

1 The ten chapters of Leviticus, xvii-xxvi (and thus, also, the laws of 
the Sabbatic Year and of the Jubilee, along with them), together con- 
stitute a unity which offers distinct characteristics from the rest of the 
Priestly Code. Accordingly, various critics (Graf, Hupfeld, Reuss, 
Wellhausen) would wish to recognize in them what is practically 
a separate code, earlier than the Priestly Code, and amalgamated at a 
later date with the other elements of the latter. If it be admitted that 
the two laws of the Sabbatic Year and of the Jubilee were originally 
included in this separate collection, the eclectic combination of these 
contradictory elements would be due to its author and not to the 
final editor of the Priestly Code. But Wellhausen's examination of 
Lev. xxv (Composition des Hexateuchs, ed. 3, pp. 164-7) does not appear 
to have led to decisive results. Wellhausen seems to favour the 
idea that the collection in Lev. xvii-xxvi originally contained only 
the law of the Sabbatic Year, and that the law of the Jubilee was 
introduced into it later. The final results would not be materially 
different from those expounded above in the text. All that is said 
about the law of the Jubilee in Lev. xxvii, and the allusion to it in 
Num. xxxvi. 4, seem to be additions made by the last editor of the 
Priestly Code. 

158 Astronomy in the Old Testament 

nine years constitutes, in fact, an astronomical lunisolar cycle, 
not so very much inferior in accuracy to the famous 
Metonic cycle of nineteen years, and greatly superior to 
the octaeteris. It is found by calculation that 606 
lunations are nearly equal to forty-nine solar years, the luna- 
tions falling short only by thirty-two hours 1 . This is 
equivalent to saying that if the calendar be regulated, as 
it was among the Jews, chiefly by observation of the 
moon, the supposition that after 606 lunations forty-nine 
years exactly have passed, would produce an error of only 
thirty-two hours in regard to the position of the sun and the 
course of the seasons — an error which could only become 
appreciable in agricultural practice at the end of eight or ten 
periods. Thus the foundations of a simple and practical 
calendar are spontaneously offered, without reckoning the 
utility which would be derived from a cycle of such length as 
one of forty-nine years, for the computation of time and for 
establishing the dates of events. But it may be regarded as 
certain that the Israelites never had any notion of such 
a way of regulating their Passover. So far as chronology is 
concerned, it cannot be doubted that the habit of reckon- 
ing times by weeks of years 2 , or by weeks of weeks of 
years 9 , had its root, not in astronomical phenomena, but 
simply in the superstitious veneration with which the Jews 
(and not they only) have always regarded the number seven. 

1 Supposing the solar year to consist of 365.2422 days, and a lunation 
of 29.5306 days, we have this result : 

49 years = 17896.86 days 
606 lunations = 17895*54 days 

Difference = 1*32 days 

Notice that in forty-nine years the error of the Julian Calendar amounts 
to 0-40 day. 

* Dan. ix. 24-7. 

3 As in the Bdok of Jubilees, where all the chronology of the 
Pentateuch is arranged according to periods of forty-nine years. 

Septenary Periods 159 

It was out of respect for the number seven and for its square 
forty-nine that, as late as the thirteenth century, the Jewish 
authors of the Alphonsine Tables assigned 49,000 years as 
the period for a complete revolution of the equinoctial points ; 
while Hipparchus and Ptolemy had already calculated it 
better at 36,000 years, and we know now that it is really 
somewhat less than 26,000. 




In his TTiesaurus Syriacus (p. 2866), Payne Smith has 
referred to the authorities which may be considered to prove 
that 'Iyutha is the name given by the Syrians to the head of 
the celestial Bull, formed by the large star Aldebaran and the 
smaller Hyades round it. The most important of these 
authorities is Barhebraeus or Gregory Abulfaraj (thirteenth 
century), who asserts, in his astronomical work De ascension* 
mentis, that 'Iyutha is a star of the first magnitude in the 
Bull, adding that, together with four other smaller stars, it 
forms the shape of the Greek letter A. That what he says 
is true can be seen from the illustration of the Hyades given 
on p. 57. 

Another piece of evidence, which has the advantage of 
being much older still, is contained in the passage cited from 
the Talmud in a note on p. 58, where we are told that, 
in a disputation held in the presence of the great teacher 
Rabbi Jehuda (about 160 a.d.), some of the disputants said 
that *Iyutha was the head of the Bull, while others identified 
it with the tail of the Ram. Probably the two sides meant 
the same thing under different names l . 

1 We can give a plausible explanation of the manner in which the 
tail of the Ram (represented in the sky by some small stars of the fourth 
or fifth magnitude) comes to be introduced, by noticing that the word 
roshj used here by the doctors of the Talmud in the sense caput (Tauri), 
may also be understood in the sense iniiium. It is not impossible that 
some of them took it as initium Tauri (beginning of the Bull) instead 
of caput Tauri (head of the Bull). Now, since in the Zodiac the Bull 
comes next after the Ram, the place where the Bull begins is the same 
as that where the Ram finishes, and is exactly the spot where the tail of 
the Ram is to be found. On this supposition, accordingly, we can 
understand how the tail of the Ram was identified, not with the 
beginning of the Bull, an error which would not have been serious, but 

sch. M 

162 Appendix I 

It does not seem possible to doubt that 'Iyutha should be 
understood to be the Hyades. There are, however, some 
indications in Arabic and Syriac writers from which it has 
been believed that another meaning can be drawn. It will 
be well to transcribe them here, as they are found quoted 
by Gesenius in his Thesaurus > p. 895 B. 

Bar Ali : 'Iyutha est el-aiyuq^ una stellarum Tauri ; 
secundum alios Orion. Bar Bahlul: * Iyutha in libro 
Honaini el-'aiyuq, quae Stella Tauri est et Ghimel litterae 
figuram refert, et post Pleiades currit : aliis Aldebaran. Lex. 
Adl. : K Iyutha est 'aiyua, una stellarum : Orion vel Pleiades. 
Firuzabadi: el-'aiyuq est Stella rutilans parva et lucida in 
dextro latere Viae Lacteae, quae sequitur Pleiades, nunquam 
praecedit. To these testimonies an Arabic version of the 
Peshitta is to be added, where 'Iyutha is regularly translated 
by el-aiyuq. 

If we put these authorities together, and neglect the refer- 
ences to Orion and the Pleiades, which certainly ought to be 
excluded from consideration, we should arrive at the result 
that 'Iyutha ought to be considered to be identical with 
el-aiyuq of the Arabs. Now it is perfectly true that, in the 
uranography of the Arabs, el-aiyuq is the name of the star 
which the Greeks call m£, and we, following the Latin usage, 
call Capella 1 ; but it is equally true that the writers cited 
above meant by el-aiyuq another star, which is in fact Alde- 
baran, or Aldebaran with the other Hyades. This will 
become clear when the words of the authors in question have 
been carefully examined. 

They say that 'Iyutha is a star of the Bull, which is true of 
Aldebaran, but not of Capella : that it is a red star, which 
cannot be said of Capella, but is eminently true of Aldebaran : 
that it is on the right of the Milky Way, and Aldebaran is on 
the right while Capella is on the left: that it follows the 
Pleiades in their daily course, and it is a special characteristic 
of Aldebaran to follow the Pleiades very closely, a circum- 

with the head of the Bull, which is quite wrong. The head of the Bull 
and the tail of the Ram occupy different positions in the sky, and the 
distance between them is about 20 degrees. 

1 Ideler, Sternnamen, p. 92. From el-aiyuq has arisen by corruption 
the name Alhayoth t sometimes used on our maps of the sky to 
designate Capella. 

Appendix L 163 

Stance from which it is precisely Aldebaran too that is called 
by the Arabs Tali al-nejm (' that which follows the Pleiades ') 
or Hadi al-nejm ('that which pushes the Pleiades before it'): 
finally, that % Iyutha imitates the shape and position of the 
letter Gimel, which exactly fits the Hyades, as they represent 
in their arrangement the shape of the letter g in the Cufic 
alphabet and in the Estrangelo Syriac alphabet, namely ^-. 
To this arrangement one of the writers cited (Bar Bahlul) 
evidently refers, as can be seen by observing the figure of the 
Hyades on p. 57. Rightly interpreted, these writers agree 
with the rest in bearing witness to the identity of % Iyuiha 
with Aldebaran and with the smaller Hyades; and it is no 
longer possible to raise any doubt about this identity. 

The Syriac version identifies 'Ash and 'Ayish with *Iyutha 
in two passages of Job (ix. 9 and xxxviii. 32), but it uses 
*Iyulha in Amos v. 8 to represent the Hebrew name Kesil^ 
which in other places it rightly renders by Gabbard (i.e.. 
Orion : see § 44). It would not, however, be lawful to infer 
from this that 'Iyutha and Gabbard are the same, since the 
same version in Job ix. 9 places these two names in succession 
one after the other, as though they were two different con- 
stellations. Accordingly, *Iyuiha in the Peshitta of Amos 
v. 8 must be regarded as an error. Still more singular is 
the use of this word in Job xv. 27, where there is certainly no 
allusion to constellations. 



The present volume had already been entrusted to the 
printers when, through the kindness of Professor Driver, 
I was enabled to read an article by Professor Stern of 
Gottingen on the constellations named in the Book of Job' 1 / 
That article has led me to add some notes and reflections 
to the account which I have already given of this subject in 
chapters iv and v. 

1 M. A. Stern, die Stembildtr in Hiob xxxviii. 31-2 (Geiger'a 
Jiidische Zeitschrift x vol. iii [i 864-5], PP- 258-76). 

M 2 

164 Appendix II 

Our attention is claimed in the first place by a passage in 
the Talmud to which Stern refers (Rosh hashshanah, p. 11), 
bearing on the meaning of the words Kimah and 'Aytsh. 
Rabbi Joshua, in speaking of the Flood, says that the rain 
began on the seventeenth day of the month Iyar, on which 
Kimah is accustomed to rise in the morning, and the springs 
begin to dry up. In consequence of the perverse behaviour 
of men, God also changed the order of the universe : in place 
of its morning rising, He caused Kimah to set in the morning, 
and removed two stars from it : the springs swelled, and the 
Flood took place. According to Rabbi Eliezer, these changes 
took place on the seventeenth day of the month Marheshvan, 
when Kimah is accustomed to set in the morning, and the 
springs increase. God reversed the order of the universe : 
Kimah rose on the morning of that day, and lost two stars. 
The springs continued to increase, and the Flood took place l . 
By interpreting these dates (the seventeenth Iyar and the 
seventeenth Marheshvan) according to the Julian calendar, 
Stern shows that they correspond exactly to the morning 
rising and setting of the Pleiades. There cannot therefore 
be any doubt that, among the Jews of the time of Rabbi 
Joshua and Rabbi Eliezer (at the beginning of the second 
century a.d.), the Pleiades were called Kimah ; and this is the 
oldest evidence for this title next to that of the Septuagint*. 

1 Stem, I.e., p. 273, where reasons are given for two corrections which 
are necessary in order to render this story in the Talmud intelligible and 
coherent. These corrections have been introduced in the text above. 

2 I think it useful to add another consideration about Kimah. In the 
Peshitta the names of the other Biblical constellations are all altered 
and reduced to their Syriac equivalent : the name Kimah alone is kept 
unchanged (under the form Kima) in all three places where it occurs. 
This fact admits only of two explanations. Either we must suppose 
that the authors of the version did not know the Syriac equivalent 
of Kimah, and have therefore abstained from translating it, just as the 
LXX had already done in the case of Mazzaroth ; or we must admit 
that this constellation had the same name in Hebrew and in Syriac. 
This second hypothesis seems the more probable. As a matter of fact 
Kfmd is used throughout Syriac literature to represent the Pleiades, as 
can be seen from the numerous quotations collected by Payne Smith 
(Thes. Syr. p. 1723). This would certainly not have occurred if the 
Syrians had originally called the Pleiades by another name. The 
Romans, who originally called thern Vergiliae, never abandoned the use 
of this name, except that, on rare occasions and especially in the poets, 
they imitated the Greeks, and also used the term Pleiades. 

Appendix II 165 

In the same passage in the Talmud, the account of Rabbi 
Joshua and Rabbi Eliezer is completed by saying that God, 
after having taken two stars from Kimah and produced the 
Flood, caused it to cease by taking away two stars from 
'Ayzsh. In other words, after having diminished the drying 
force of Kimah by taking away two of its stars and thus 
producing the Flood, God caused the Flood to cease by taking 
away two stars from 'Ayish and thus diminishing its rain- 
producing force. Stern maintains it to be indubitable that 
by this constellation 'Ayish, the bringer of rain, the Talmudists 
meant to indicate the Hyades 1 ; and this appears no less 
certain to us, after the discussion of 'Ayish in chapter iv. 
We have, however, in this passage cited from the Talmud, 
a new witness in favour of the identity of 'Ayish and the 
Hyades. Further, if we combine this passage with another 
cited in the note on p. 57, on the identity of 'Ash and the 
Hyades, we conclude that the identity of % Ash and 'Ayish 
was regarded as certain even by the most ancient Talmudists. 

Professor Stern does not, however, allow himself to be 
influenced by these testimonies of the ancient Rabbis: he 
has formed for himself a system of the constellations in Job, 
from which he deduces very different results. He lays down 
as his starting-point, that, in the passage to which he pays 
special attention (Job xxxviii. 31-2), the choice of the four 
constellations and the order of their names are not adopted 
by chance or without a rule. He has endeavoured to find 
this rule, and in his interpretation he follows it with unbending 
rigour. He remarks in the first place, following Otfried 
Miiller, that four only out of the remarkable groups of stars 
placed in the middle and southern regions of the sky have 
given rise to important legends in the primitive mythology of 
the Greeks: these four are the Dog (Sirius), Orion, the 
Hyades, and the Pleiades. They are contiguous and form 
a continuous belt in the sky, in which they follow according 
to the order here given. Finally, it is noteworthy that all 
these constellations, together with their dates of rising and 
setting in relation to the sun, stood as signs, in the old Greek 
rustic and meteorological calendar, for seasons in the year 
which are important for certain agricultural labours, for the 

1 Stern, /. c, p. 274. 

i66 Appendix II 

return of rain, of the unhealthy season, and of noxious states 
of the atmosphere. Now, in Job xxxviii. 31-2, there are 
just four constellations mentioned, and these are certainly 
important ones, as their names occur elsewhere also in the 
Bible : Kimah, Kesil, Mazzaroth, and 'Aytsh, The enumera- 
tion of them is preceded by a series of meteorological indica- 
tions (verses 22-30), and followed by a similar series (verses 
34-8). To the influence of the heaven (that is, of the stars) 
over the earth, a direct allusion is made immediately after the 
passage in question (verse 33). From all this Stern concludes 
that the author of the Book of Job selected these four con- 
stellations, not so much because of their brightness, as 
because of their connexion with atmospheric phenomena 
and because they afforded indications of some important 
phases of the seasons. For the rest, he tacitly assumes as 
certain that these connexions and indications at the time of 
the writer were the same as in Palestine, paying no attention 
to difference of latitude and climate. He seems also to be 
persuaded that Jews and Greeks must necessarily have judged 
in the same way of these connexions and indications, and 
that their astro-meteorological science was composed of the 
same elements combined in an identical manner. As, there- 
fore, the number of the constellations is four in both the 
subjects of comparison, and as the order of names in Job is 
held to be necessarily the same as that of the constellations 
in the sky, it will be enough to assign to one of the names 
the corresponding constellation, and all the rest is fixed. 
Stern assumes with the majority of interpreters (as we have 
also assumed in this book) that Kesil represents Orion. This 
being granted, it is only necessary to write down the two 
series in parallel columns, so as to bring Kesil and Orion 
opposite each other; and this happens if we begin the one 
series with Kimah, the other with Sirius, producing the result 

Kima k=Smus i 

Kesil = Orion, 

Mazzaroth = Hyades, 

*Ayi$Jv=- Pleiades. 
Thus the system is complete in all its parts and all its con- 
sequences. Stern proceeds to develop with great ability his 
arguments in favour of each of the identifications which he 

Appendix II 167 

In regard to the identification of Kimah with Sinus, he 
cannot in reality find anything to say beyond the consideration 
that, from the brilliant constellations named in Job, the most 
brilliant star in the sky cannot be absent. For the rest, he 
adds that the Jews might, like the Greeks, have recognized 
in this constellation a dog — or even a mad and hence a 
chained dog. So he succeeds also in giving on his hypothesis 
a plausible interpretation of the disputed word mdanaddoth. 

The identification of "Ayish and her children' with the 
Pleiades has in its favour the popular simile for the Pleiades 
of a hen and her chickens, which is widely diffused in the 
west and seems to have been known in the east too. The 
passage in the Targum which Stern cites on this subject 1 
is worthy of note. Yet it cannot be denied that the expression 
"Ayish and her children' is equally well adapted to Alde- 
baran and the minor Hyades surrounding it. As for the 
etymology suggested by Kimchi, deriving Ash from 'us ft, ' to 
gather together/ this agrees excellently with a group of stars 
like the Pleiades ; but we may observe that the Hyades are 
no less striking as a group, and that the name Kimah, to 
which the LXX, the Syriac writers, and the Talmudists bear 
witness as an equivalent for the Pleiades, offers an equally 
appropriate derivation from kum, in Arabic ' to heap up/ Stern 
holds that the two names 'As ft and 'Ayish certainly refer to the 
same constellation, but with this difference, that 'Ash repre- 
sents the entire group of stars, and 'Ayish is a derivative from 
it, to stand for the principal star of the group. In this way 
he explains the fact that 'Ash is mentioned by itself, while 
'Ayish appears accompanied by her children. The idea is in- 
genious, and is as applicable to the Hyades as to the Pleiades. 

For the Hyades, however, Stern has reserved the Biblical 
name Mazzaroth or Mazzaloth. He derives this second form 
from the root nazal, 'fluxit/ making Mazzaroth mean 'the 
stars which cause (the waters) to flow/ or, in other words, 
the stars that bring rain 2 . Now this was exactly the character 
of the Hyades in the opinion of the Greeks and Romans, 
amongst whom the evening setting of the Hyades was wont 
to announce, about the middle of April, the beginning of the 

1 Stern, /. c, p. 262. 

9 [This root is only found in Joel iii. (iv.) 11, and is a very uncertain 

168 Appendix II 

spring rains and the season of equinoctial storms. Stem 
tacitly assumes that, at the time when the Book of Job was 
written, the same coincidence existed between these two 
celestial and terrestrial phenomena. This I must deny. 
The period of spring rains during the second half and end of 
April, which gave to the Hyades such a bad reputation in 
Greece and Rome, also occurred in Palestine, but commenced 
a month and a half earlier, at the end of February or the 
beginning of March, according to our present calendar, and 
was wont to announce its arrival with great regularity every 
year by a succession of cold, rainy days which were especially 
harmful to the health of the old, and on that account are 
called in Syria and Palestine eiyam el J agdiz i 'the days (of 
death) of the old 1 .' Immediately after these days spring 
begins, and throughout its course beneficent rains continue 
at intervals, which bring the crops to maturity 2 . But at no 
epoch of Jewish history was the commencement of the period 
to which we refer marked by special phenomena connected 
with the Hyades 8 . At the date when we may reasonably 
suppose the Book of Job to have been written, the Hyades 
and their evening setting announced in Palestine, not a rainy 
season, but the return of summer and the beginning of 
reaping-time in the fields. 

But this is not the only difficulty. It is also necessary to 
explain how the Jews at the time of Ahaz and Manasseh, 
following the example of the Babylonians and Assyrians, 
came to honour with special reverence, along with the sun 
and moon, the Hyades also, in agreement with what is said 
in 2 Kings xxiii. 5. An evidence of this special reverence is 
found by Professor Stern in the astronomical representations 

1 Riehm, Handworterbuch d. bibl. Alterthums, ed. I, p. 1763. 

3 Riehm, /. c. These are the spring rains [A. V., R. V., ' latter rain '], 
to which the Jews gave the name malkosh, to distinguish them from the 
autumnal rains called moreh (Jer. v. 24; Deut. xi. 14) ; cp. p. 32 n. 

3 At the beginning of the Christian era, on latitude 32 (that of 
Jerusalem), the smaller Hyades disappeared in their evening setting about 
April 16. In 750 B.C. the same phenomenon took place about April 
6 : these dates are given according to the Gregorian style, which is 
sufficiently close to the course of the sun for such questions. Aldebaran, 
being a much more brilliant star, remained visible in the evening twilight 
for a little longer and made its evening setting about three days later. 
In this calculation I have supposed the arcus visionis to be 15 for the 
minor Hyades and 12 for Aldebaran. 

Appendix II 169 

contained on many of the cylindrical seals which the soil of 
Mesopotamia has preserved. On the upper part of the scene, 
sculptured on the convex surface of these cylinders, the sun 
and moon are seen figured, or sometimes also the moon 
alone; in other cases the sun and moon are accompanied 
by seven small disks which, according to all probability, 
represent seven stars. The geometrical figure which they 
form is not always the same. On some cylinders Stern has 
recognized the shape of the letter V which is characteristic 
of the Hyades, and he has found in this an evident sign of 
the importance which this group of stars must have had in 
the astral theology of the Babylonians. So then, along with 
the worship of the moon and the sun, there would have 
come from Babylonia to Jerusalem the worship of the 
Hyades, that is, of Mazzaloth. And in these cylindrical seals 
we should have a clear and simple illustration of the passage 
in 2 Kings, where sun, moon, and Mazzaloth are found 
associated together \ 

The works of Layard and Me*nant, which form the principal 
sources for the study of these cylindrical seals, are not 
accessible to me. But I have been able to collect from other 
books a certain number of Assyrian and Babylonian astro- 
nomical representations, partly sculptured on cylinders, partly 
on larger and more important monuments, and sometimes of 
known date. I have found the seven stars on thirteen of 
these representations; but four out of this number I have 
had to exclude, either as being imperfect or as presenting 
some reason for doubt 2 . In two other cases I have seen 
something like the shape of a V, to which Stern alludes — 
a very narrow and elongated V, as is shown in (a) below s . 

Six times I have found the seven stars arranged in two 

1 Stem, /. c, } pp. 268-9. 

a One of these four is the pillar of Esarhaddon found at Zenjirli, of 
which we shall have to speak later. Two others are reproduced in 
Babelon (Lenormant, Histoire ancienne de V Orient, ed. 9, iv. 195, v. 
310) ; the fourth in Trans. Soc. Bibl. Archaeol. v. 642. 

8 Babelon in Lenormant, op. cit. t v. 299 and 347. They are two 
cylinders ; in both, the seven stars are accompanied by the moon and the 

170 Appendix II 

parallel lines, the upper line containing four, the lower three 
stars, as is shown in (£). This arrangement is not only 
found in two of the cylindrical seals which I have seen 1 , 
where it might be thought that the exceedingly small scale 
had rendered an exact design difficult, but also,on four larger 
monuments where the defect is not due to considerations of 
space. We see it on three magnificent bas-reliefs of Nimrod, 
which represent Asshurnazirpal in his chariot, ready for war 
or for a lion hunt 2 . It is also drawn with absolute geometrical 
precision on a curious bronze tablet of Assyrian origin, found 
at Palmyra (and now in the Leclercq collection at Paris), 
which contains a mythological representation of the universe 8 . 
My impression is, therefore, that (3) ought to be regarded as 
the normal or ritual arrangement of the seven stars, and that 
(a) is derived from it by mere imperfection of drawing, which 
is easily intelligible in such minute representations. In no 
case, as it seems to me, can we see here the shape of the 
Hyades, in which the branches of the V display a much 
larger deviation from each other and form between them an 
angle of about 60 degrees \ 

1 Lenormant-Babelon, op. cit. t v. 248 and 296. On both cylinders the 
seven stars are accompanied by the astronomical triad, the moon, the sun, 
and Venus. 

2 Lenormant-Babelon, op.cit-^vr. 120, 155, and 376, where in all three 
cases the seven stars are accompanied by the figures of the moon and of 

8 Published in the Paris Revue Arch4ologique ) 1879, p. 387, tab. 25; 
also in Lenormant-Babelon, op. cit., pp. 292-3. It is also described by 
D. Bassi, Mitologia Babilonese Assira, pp. 160-2. The seven stars are 
here accompanied by the usual astronomical triad, but, contrary to the 
ordinary usage, Venus occupies the first place and the moon the last. 
The sun is represented according to the type used in Assyria. I ought 
to mention the exceptional case presented by a cylinder published in 
Proc. Soc. Bibl. Archaeol., 1897, p. 301, where the stars are arranged 
almost like the Great Bear. Here too, however, is marked, though in 
a different way, the division into two groups of four and three stars 
respectively, which is rigorously observed in the cases of the normal type. 

• The number of the Hyades also causes some difficulty. Stern 
supposes that the shape of the V as we understand it is composed of Jive 
stars (the number which the majority of the classical writers also admit 
for the Hyades) ; and, to obtain the number seven, he is obliged to 
prolong the two arms of the V to four times their true length, by 
including in the Hyades the two distant stars and £ Tauri, which form 
the points of the two horns of the Bull. But it is difficult to allow this, 
as those two stars are between 18 and 20 degrees distant from the 

Appendix II 171 

Jensen and Zimmem 1 see in the group of the seven stars 
a representation of the Pleiades. Long before, Layard 3 had 
believed himself to recognize a certain likeness in the manner 
of arrangement of the two. But the resemblance leaves 
something to be desired; for the Pleiades visible to the 
naked eye are only six, arranged in one rather irregular line of 
four stars and another, nearly parallel to the first, of two. Of 
the remaining telescopic stars the most brilliant, which might 
complete the number seven for an exceedingly acute eye, is 
quite outside the order formed by the six brighter stars which 
are visible to the naked eye. It is true enough that the 
Pleiades were of great use to the Babylonians, enabling them 
to determine, by observing them on the first days of each 
year, whether the year thus commenced ought to include 
twelve or thirteen lunations. But this does not seem sufficient 
to justify the constant association of the Pleiades with the 
great divinities of the sky, Sin, SamaS, and I§tar. 

Perhaps all the difficulties may be overcome by suggesting 
the hypothesis that the fundamental conception of these 
astronomical representations is very ancient, belonging to 
a time when for the Babylonians (as can be proved to have 
been the case for the Egyptians) the number of the minor 
planets was seven rather than five: a date at which the 
identity of Hesperus and Lucifer had not yet been determined, 
and the further identity (which is much harder to establish) 
of the morning and evening Mercury was not yet known, so 
that each of these planets counted as two. The discovery 

rest of the group, all of which is included in a diameter of less than 
5 degrees. The truth is that, to an eye that is only moderately sharp 
and attentive, the Hyades look like five stars only, one placed at the 
apex of the V, two at the ends of the branches, and two at the middle 
point of the branches. But a really sharp and attentive eye will not 
hesitate to recognize that each of these two last stars (called by 
astronomers 5 and $ Tauri) is composed of two stars, which are very 
near together, the distance in 5 being 18', and in only 5'. This 
explains why some ancient writers counted seven Hyades instead of five ; 
and, to obtain the number seven, it is not necessary to increase the 
constellation fourfold so as to reach the horn of the Bull. It is also 
true that the seven Hyades, when defined thus, no longer present the 
great likeness which Stern supposes with the Babylonian and Assyrian 
designs of the seven stars. 

1 Zimmern in KAT. 3 pp. 620-1. Jensen, Kosmologie der Babylonier, 
p. 92. 

2 Layard, Nineveh and its remains t ii. p. 447 j Stern, /. c, p. 268. 

172 Appendix II 

of the true number of the minor planets certainly dates 
among the Babylonians from before the twelfth century b.c, 
since (as has been already said in chapter v) the kudurru 
or boundary stones of that time already show Venus as one 
star, associated with the sun and the moon. When we con- 
sider the matter in this light, we succeed in understanding 
how, on monuments of extreme antiquity and earlier than the 
twelfth century, the association of the sun and the moon 
with seven planets is perfectly natural, and is in fact what we 
ought to expect in preference to any other arrangement. In 
this opinion we are confirmed by the division of the seven 
stars into two lines of four and three. The four stars of the 
upper line are evidently Venus and Mercury, each in its 
morning and evening elongation, and each therefore treated 
as two different stars. The three stars of the other line 
correspond to Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, whose phenomena 
are, as is well known, widely different from those of the two 
apparitions of Venus and of Mercury. It will not seem 
difficult to admit that these representations then went on 
being repeated (sometimes perhaps without their real meaning 
being understood) and consecrated as religious symbols even 
in much later times, when it is considered that in these 
material things religions frequently preserve tenaciously the 
forms of the past, even when those forms have lost, as 
a whole or in part, their primitive significance. So seven 
planets continued to figure along with the sun and the moon, 
even when the true number five was known. And when the 
worship of IStar had attained great pre-eminence (especially 
in Assyria) and the triad of the three great celestial divinities, 
Sin, Sama§, and I§tar, was formed, the seven planets continued 
to figure together with it, although Venus was already repre- 
sented by two of the minor stars. 

As to the nature of the symbols of astronomical theology 
set forth by the idolatrous kings of Judah for the veneration 
of the Jews, we can form a conjecture by studying the very 
complete astronomical representation which is cut on the 
bas-relief placed at Zenjirli in Northern Syria in honour of 
Esarhaddon king of Assyria, while Manasseh was reigning in 
Jerusalem *. The field surrounding the king's head is com- 

1 I have not seen this stone ; but I have under my eyes two excellent 
photographic reproductions, both published by Bezold, one in his 

Appendix II 173 

pletely filled by sculptures of the most elaborate detail, and 
contains in its central part four divinities, each supported by 
an animal symbol. On the right of these stand, in the usual 
order, the figures of the great astronomical triad, the moon, 
the sun, and Venus, that of the sun designed according to 
the type used in Assyria. On the other side are four small 
disks, represented in the same way as the seven stars of the 
cylindrical seals and of other monuments. The irregular 
arrangement of these four disks and a bare space by their 
side (which could hardly be seen on a representation 
so crowded that all the figures are almost touching each 
other), afford some ground for the suspicion that the disks 
here too were originally seven in number and that three 
of them were suppressed, perhaps by the sculptor of the 
monument himself 1 . Whether, however, the number of the 
disks was four from the first, or whether this number ought 
to be looked upon as the result of a later correction, in either 
case the reason is evident why it has been adopted in place 
of the canonical number seven. We see here an attempt to 
adapt the symbols venerated by antiquity to the notions of 
positive astronomy, for which it was already a well-established 
fact that, including the sun and the moon, the number of the 
heavenly bodies, the interpreters of destiny and the basis of 
all later astrology, was seven and no more. As the moon, 
the sun, and Venus are already represented on the monument 
as members of the great triad, four disks were enough to 
represent the remaining planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and 
Mercury. The number of four minor stars, instead of seven, 
may be considered as a proof that the small disks on all 
these monuments represent the minor planets and have 
nothing to do with the Pleiades or the Hyades. 

popular work Nineveh und Babylon (1903), the other in his lecture Die 
babylonisch-assyrischen Keilinschrifien (1904). The two are inde- 
pendent of each other ; they are taken under different conditions of light, 
and the one serves to control and supplement the other. [See also Ball's 
Light from the East> the Plate opposite p. 198.] 

1 So far as I can judge from my photographs, the surface of this part 
of the monument does not seem to have sustained any fracture or to 
have undergone any corrosion. All the bas-relief appears to be in 
a state of perfect preservation, and the exceedingly delicate figures near 
it are intact. The conclusions in the text must in any case be accepted 
with reserve, and subject to the condition that a careful examination of 
the stone confirms what seems to result from the photographs. 

174 Appendix II 

We may conclude, with Professor Stem, that the Assyrio- 
Babylonian astronomical representations give a clear and 
simple illustration of the passage in 2 Kings xxiii. 5, where 
the writer speaks of those who offered incense ' to Baal, to 
the sun, to the moon, to Mazzaloth, and to all the host of 
heaven/ Only we understand the matter in a somewhat 
different way : first, because we believe that, not the Hyades; 
but the planets are represented by the seven stars ; secondly j 
because it seems necessary to distinguish between the various 
classes of monuments. The first form of these representations, 
which is found on the most ancient Babylonian cylinders 
(or on those which are imitated from the most ancient); 
corresponds to that most rudimentary stage of planetary 
astronomy in which Venus and Mercury appeared as two 
stars each : it only contains the sun, the moon, and the seven 
minor planets. Compared with the Biblical text, these 
cylinders would lead us to suppose that Mazzaloth were 
simply the planets. But it does not seem a plausible pro- 
ceeding to set that text side by side with monuments of so 
much greater antiquity. The kudurru or boundary stones 
dating from the twelfth century onwards already show a different 
type ; the great astronomical triad occupies a prominent 
place on them, but we do not find the seven stars there, 
probably because the emblems of the planets belong to the 
many points connected with these stones which are still 
unexplained, and we have not yet learned to recognize them* 
From the examination of these stones, we drew the conclusion 
in chapter v that Mazzaloth might perhaps be Venus. This 
interpretation seems to be confirmed by the bas-relief of 
Esarhaddon, where, together with the great divinities of the 
Assyrian Olympus (the Bdalim of the Bible), appear the 
three members of the great astronomical triad, the sun, the 
moon, and Venus (Mazzaloth), and the planets (' the host of 
heaven '). The correspondence with the Biblical text is 
complete, and is given by a monument which is contemporary 
with the most flourishing period of idolatry in the kingdom 
of Judah. The same inferences, and in a no less conclusive 
form, are suggested by the bronze of Palmyra, mentioned 
above, which seems to date from nearly the same age. On 
the upper part of this most singular bas-relief there are 
figured, first, four (celestial?) divinities surrounded by their 

Appendix II 175 

emblems. In attendance comes the great astronomical triad, 
in the order — Venus, sun, moon — the sun being represented 
according to the Assyrian type. Finally we have the seven 
stars, very regularly arranged in their two lines, containing 
four and three stars respectively. Here too there are Bdalim, 
Mazzaloih, the sun, the moon, and the host of heaven. The 
precedence given to Venus over the sun and moon indicates 
a date when the worship of IStar prevailed among the 
Assyrians over every other, and this brings us to the age of 
Asshurbanipal, who is known to have been especially devoted 
to the cultus of this goddess and who reigned for thirty years 
contemporaneously with his vassal Manasseh, the idolatrous 
king of Judah. 




In a note to chapter ix (p. 132), I have briefly indicated 
the results which can be drawn on this subject from the 
numerous dates inscribed on the Babylonian tablets, and I 
have applied this principle to the series of about 400 trans- 
cribed by Boscawen (Trans. Soc. Bill. ArcJiaeol. vi. 47-77). 
These dates, as I have been further able to prove, contain 
some mistakes in writing, and the conclusions drawn from 
them require some correction. This consideration has led 
me to make a more extensive study on a more reliable basis, 
namely, of the long series of Babylonian documents on tablets 
preserved in the British Museum, published in their original 
form, by Strassmaier \ The part of this collection which has 

1 Babylonische Texte, von den Thontafeln des Britischen Museums 
copirt tind autographirt von J. N. Strassmaier y S. J. : five volumes 
containing the inscriptions of Nabonidos, Nebuchadnezzar II, Cyrus, 
Cambyses, and Darius I respectively. The gap between Nebuchadnezzar 
and Nabonidos has been filled by Evetts, Inscriptions of the reigns of 
Evi/merodach, Nerigiissor, and Labor ossarchod^ in the same form as 
that adopted by Strassmaier. The two short gaps of the reigns of 
Smerdis and Nebuchadnezzar III remain to be supplied. 


Appendix III 

hitherto been edited contains 3,148 tablets, nearly all com- 
mercial or civil deeds, and the dates contained in them run 
from the year of Nebuchadnezzar II's accession to the throne 
to the twenty-third year of Darius I (604-449 B.C.). In 
some of these dates the day of the month is not given, in 
many others it has been lost through the fracture or decay of 
the tablets. Excluding both these classes (amounting to 384 
in all) there remain 2,764 dates : if these are classified accord- 
ing to the day of the month, the following is the result: — 

Day of the 

Number of 

Day of the 

Number o J 

month. dates. 



i .... 76 

xvii . . . 

. 84 

« ■ 

11 . 

. 109 

xviii . . . 

. 67 


. 102 

xix . . . 

. 12 


. 84 

xxi la/. . . 

. 77 


. 107 

XX . . . 

. 107 


. 93 

xxi . . . 

. 121 


. 100 

xxii . . . 

. 129 

• ■ ■ 


. • 105 

xxiii . . , 

, . 68 


. 86 

xxiv . . . 

. 97 


. . 120 

XXV . . 

, . 98 


. 86 

xxvi . . 

. - 85 


. 86 

xxvii . . , 

, . 78 

• • ■ 


• i 99 

xxviii . . 

• • 9i 


. . 98 

xxix . . 

. . 51 


. . 114 

xxx • . 

. . 48 


. . 87 


If we divide the total 2,764 by 29*53 (the number of days 
contained in a lunar month), we find that each day of the 
month ought on an average to be given on 94 tablets. 
As a matter of fact, many of the numbers on the second 
column only vary slightly from this figure, showing a degree 
of variation which can be attributed to accidental causes. But 
there are some large deviations which cannot be explained in 
this way. Among the considerations suggested by the ex- 
amination of the preceding table, I shall only indicate those 
which are connected with the subject of this Appendix. 

I. Against the four days which are marked in the calen- 
dars as dies nefasfi, the 7 th, 14th, 21st, and 28th days, we 
find the numbers 100, 98, 121, 91 respectively: the first 
three of these are above the average 94, and the last is 
only slightly below it. The idea, therefore, that these days 

Appendix HI 177 

brought misfortune would seem to have had no practical 
effect among the Babylonians of the time of Nebuchadnezzar 
and of Darius I, and not to have prevented them from con- 
cluding contracts or civil deeds of any kind. It would be 
much less possible still to suppose that these days were a 
real Sabbath, that is to say, a day of rest such as the Jews 
had, and such as Christian countries still have. The division 
of the month into four weeks was probably for religious 
purposes only, and parallels for this can be found in the 
rituals of Mazdeism and of the most ancient Buddhists. It 
is in this sense only that it would be legitimate to speak of 
a Babylonian week, at least during the time over which the 
documents extend with which Strassmaier deals. 

II. Mr. Pinches has recently discovered that the name 
shapattu was given by the Babylonians to the 15th day of 
the month 1 . The preceding table gives the number 114 
for the 15th day, which far exceeds the average 94: in 
this case again, therefore, it is clear that we cannot speak of 
a day of rest or of cessation of business. Perhaps, as 
Mr. Pinches observes, the word shapatlu refers to the position 
or appearance of the moon at its full, and has nothing to do 
with religious ritual or with human business 2 . 

III. The 'week of weeks' falls on the 49th day after 
each new moon: if the month be of thirty days, on the 
19th day of the next month. This 19th day is marked 
in the calendars as an umu limnu or dies nefastus. In 
civil deeds and contracts the 19th day is nearly always 
avoided, and it is very rarely written on tablets. In the 
preceding table the 19th day of the month only occurs 
twelve times. This should not, however, lead us to conclude 
that deeds and contracts were not concluded on the 19th 
day of the month. On this day the Babylonians attended to 
business as on other days ; but they avoided the ill-omened 
date 19 by generally writing instead of it xX'i-Za/, which 
means 20-1 s . In the preceding table we must refer to the 

1 Proe. Soe. Bibl, ArchaeoU xxvi. 51 and 162. 

3 lb. xxvi. 55. [Cp. p. 132 above.] 

3 Epping, in his remarkable studies on the Babylonian tablets, was 
the first to recognize the fact that any number followed by the sign lal 
is to be understood as a number to be subtracted or, to use an algebraical 
term, as a negative quantity (Astronomisches aus Babylon, p. 11). Ac- 
cordingly 1 lal is equivalent to — 1 ; and xxi lal must be interpreted as 

SCH r N 

178 Appendix 111 

19th day of the month, not only the 12 dates marked by 
the number 19, but also the 77 marked by xxi lal. In all, 
therefore, we have 12+77 = 89 dates for the 19th day of 
the month, and this only falls slightly below the average 94. 

IV. The documents published by Strassmaier enable us 
also to answer another question — whether the Babylonians 
had any institution similar to the Hebrew Sabbath, according 
to which they were obliged to abstain from all work at fixed 
intervals of 7 days, independently of any consideration of the 
moon's phases. This problem cannot be solved as simply 
as the one already discussed. Yet the large quantity of 
available documents allows us to give a certain answer. It 
will be enough, without reproducing the calculations which 
I have made, to say that the result, as might have been 
expected, has been entirely on the negative side. An equally 
negative result is produced if we suggest a period of 5 days 
instead of a week of 7 days. It seems that the Babylonians 
were not in the habit of interrupting their business affairs on 
days fixed by the calendar. Not even during the great solem- 
nities of the beginning of the year, which seem to have 
extended from the 1st to the nth day of the month Nisan, can 
a partial cessation of business be shown to have taken place. 
Of the 2,764 documents dated by Strassmaier, 94 were 
written on the first 1 1 days of Nisan. The average number 
for 1 1 days taken from any part of the year would only be 83. 

This arithmetical method of studying the large mass of 
Babylonian documents may lead to other results also : but of 
these, as they have no relation to the Jewish Sabbath, this is 
not the place to speak. I shall only allow myself to add the 
hope that the great work of Strassmaier may be completed and 
extended as far as possible. The copious material already 
collected in the British Museum can serve for this object, and 
further means are furnished by new excavations, especially 
by those which the Americans are now carrying on at Nippur. 

xx.l lal (20 — 1) = 19. Boscawen read xxi lal as 2 1 throughout, and so 
also did Strassmaier in the first volumes of his publication. But in the 
last volume {Inscriptions of Darius I) he writes it correctly as 19. 
So too does Evetts in his supplementary volume. 

Oxford : Printed at the Clarendon Press by Horace Hart, M.A.